for this game

Chalmers shoots Kansas to Big 12 title

Mar 16, 2008 - 11:58 PM By Marc Bowman PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- Different year, same result.

For the third straight season, fifth-ranked Kansas defeated No. 8 Texas, 84-74, in the Big 12 tournament championship game, a contest with implications for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Behind Mario Chalmers' career-high 30 points, the Jayhawks on Sunday won their sixth tournament championship and third straight, running their winning streak in the Big 12 tourney to nine games.

"Yesterday, Brandon (Rush) stepped up big for us," Chalmers said. "Tonight everybody stepped up. We were talking about it yesterday, that we were going to need a big game from everybody and I think everybody continued to do that today."

The win cemented a top seed for Kansas in the NCAA Tournament, its second in as many years.

"We desperately needed this tournament," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "We haven't had many close games in the conference."

Chalmers and second-seeded Kansas (31-3) took a page out of the Texas playbook, raining in 15 3-pointers, including a career-best eight by sophomore guard. Chalmers' last basket from the arc gave the Jayhawks a 75-71 lead with 1:52 to play, part of a 14-3 run over the final 4:44 to put the game away.

"It was one of the best games I've ever been a part of," Self said. "It was a game of runs, and I thought it was a classic well-played game with some guys making some unbelievable plays."

"This was a great college game," Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said. "Both teams really went at it and played really, really hard. I'm sure it was a great game for fans to watch."

After a sluggish, turnover-prone start, the teams traded long runs, with Kansas using an 18-5 burst to take a 21-13 lead at 12:37 remaining on a 3-pointer by the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Brandon Rush. The junior guard finished with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Longhorns responded immediately with a 15-0 burst capped by D.J. Augustin's 3-pointer to lead 27-21 with 8:44 to go. Both teams were red-hot from the floor, combining to make 35-of-60 field-goal attempts (58 percent), and 17-of-26 from long range.

"The shooting tonight was pretty amazing," Rush said. "Everybody stepped up and played pretty good."

"I said going in, I said back then, I thought that Kansas is the best team we've played all year," Barnes said. "I also know that when I say that, that we're right there with them and today's game was no different. They shot the ball well. We shot it well, too, but they just shot the ball really, really well."

Augustin led all scorers with 18 points at the half, making all four of his shots from behind the arc while Chalmers made 5-of-6 3-pointers to lead Kansas with 17. Texas led 46-45 at intermission in the highest-scoring first half of Big 12 championship history.

Out of the break, the Jayhawks missed their first five shots while the Longhorns missed 11 straight, enabling Kansas to take a 64-56 lead on Rush's 3-pointer in transition with 10:25 left.

"I told the team we've got to make a conscious effort to guard better because, in a horse contest, I don't know if you want to get into one of those with Abrams and Augustin the way they shot it in the first half," Self said.

"We wanted to slow them down and not let them get the open looks, and make them work for their points," Rush said. "We beat them on rebounding, and that was a key for our win."

Texas (28-6) again responded immediately, running off 11 straight points to grab a 67-64 lead on A.J. Abrams' basket from the arc with 7:56 remaining, but the Longhorns missed their last seven shots to fall short.

"I don't think 15 threes beat us," Barnes said. "I think we got beat with not rebounding the ball at crucial times. "I think we gave up too much dribble penetration at times. It goes back to we were in a position to win the game and we just didn't quite get it done in those last couple of minutes."

The Jayhawks outrebounded the Longhorns, 42-29, led by Darrell Arthur's nine boards.

Augustine was again the Longhorns' catalyst, draining 4-of-5 3-pointers and leading the team with 20 points while Abrams' scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime.

Justin Mason added 17 points for Texas, which never has won a tournament title.