LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Rick Barnes was asked what made Kansas forward Perry Ellis so difficult to contain, and the Texas coach twice pointed out the way his senior instincts have developed.
Nobody had the heart to tell Barnes that he’ll still be dealing with Ellis next season.
The junior poured in 28 points while ripping down 13 rebounds in a brilliant performance on Saturday, leading the eighth-ranked Jayhawks to a 69-64 victory over the Longhorns.
“He’s been around, played some games,” Barnes said. “You have to be impressed.”
Ellis has gone over 20 points each of his last three games, moving the Jayhawks (23-6, 12-4) within striking distance of an 11th straight Big 12 title. They are a game clear of second-place Oklahoma with only games left against West Virginia and the Sooners.
“We rode Perry as hard as we’ve ever ridden him and he played great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s playing as well as anybody in the country right now.”
Trying to bolster its NCAA resume, Texas (17-12, 6-10) had its chances down the stretch.
Isaiah Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Longhorns trailing 66-64 and 48.3 seconds left. Then, the talented sophomore guard missed a spinning, off-balanced floater as he appeared to get fouled that would have tied the game with 6.1 seconds remaining.
Kelly Oubre Jr. made two last foul shots to put the game away, finishing with 15 points.
Taylor wound up with 17 for the Longhorns, though it’ll be the final couple of minutes that he will remember most vividly. Demarcus Holland added 15 points and Kendal Yancy 11.
“Seems like you’re fighting as hard as we are, everything is going against you,” said Barnes, whose team has lost four straight. “We can take a lot of plays and say this, that or whatever, you look at the numbers, you have a pretty even game.”
There was a festive atmosphere inside Allen Fieldhouse as snow blanketed the ground outside. Kansas was celebrating the 60th anniversary of its fabled home, showing special video montages of grainy black-and-white film of its construction as cheerleaders dressed in 1950s-era outfits.
The joie de vive hardly waned when the ball was thrown up.
Two teams have faced each other regularly for Big 12 tournament titles traded blows like a couple of wary and respectful boxers in the middle of the ring.
Ellis threw most of the haymakers for the Jayhawks, scoring on an array of jumpers and scooping layups. Then there was the biggest highlight of the half, his alley-oop dunk off a pass from Wayne Selden Jr. that brought the sellout crowd to its feet.
Holland kept punch back for Texas, hitting all three of his first-half field goals. His final one, a 3-pointer at the buzzer, rattled through to make it 34-31 at the break.
The Longhorns kept the pressure up early in the second half, building a 48-42 lead — its biggest of the game — when Taylor got a leaner to go with just over 11 minutes remaining.
That’s when the Jayhawks started their comeback.
Ellis did most of the work, bookending a couple field goals around a pair of free throws. But it was a three-point play by Oubre that finally gave Kansas the lead back, and Frank Mason III’s 3-pointer — the Jayhawks’ first of the game — created some brief separation.
Holland’s 3-pointer with just over 2 minutes remaining get Texas within 62-61, and Yancey got another 3 to go moments later to make it 66-64 and set up a frantic finish.
“All the coaches were saying was, ‘Attack, attack, attack,’” Ellis said. “That’s what we did.”
ALEXANDER HELD OUT
The Jayhawks played without part-time starter Cliff Alexander after the NCAA raised questions about his eligibility. The freshman forward spent the game in sweats. “Hopefully it’ll be resolved and in a timely manner,” Self said, stressing that the issue had nothing to do with Kansas.
BEWARE THE PHOG
Texas still has won just once in 13 games at Allen Fieldhouse. It happened on Jan. 22, 2011, when the Longhorns ended the Jayhawks’ 69-game home winning streak.
Texas: The Longhorns had a 27-7 edge in bench points. ... Taylor also had eight assists. ... Myles Turner had 10 points, eight boards and five blocks.
Kansas: The Jayhawks only committed six turnovers and were 26 of 32 from the foul line. ... Kansas is 14-0 at home, 9-6 in all other games.
Texas plays its fifth consecutive ranked opponent Monday night against No. 19 Baylor.
Kansas plays its home finale Tuesday night against No. 20 West Virginia.