Saturday presents one last (scheduled) chance for the Texas Longhorns at Allen Fieldhouse

On3 imageby:Joe Cook02/22/24

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On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns will play their final scheduled contest in Allen Fieldhouse against the Kansas Jayhawks. The venerable old coliseum has not been kind to Texas, with the Longhorns 2-17 in the daunting road environment and with just one win without attendance restrictions in place.

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But if the Longhorns can take home Saturday’s contest, they’ll not only get their sixth win over Kansas in their last eight tries, they’ll earn their third victory ever in Allen Fieldhouse and an important addition to their 2023-24 NCAA Tournament resume.

“We’ve got a huge challenge against a team that plays extremely well in their building and a team that was picked to win the league,” Texas head coach Rodney Terry said Thursday. “That’s really all we have in front of us right now and really been our approach the whole time.”

Terry was asked what makes the 16,300-seat arena special. Terry, who is 0-1 as the head coach of the Longhorns at KU but was on Rick Barnes‘ staff as an assistant when the Longhorns notched their first victory against the Jayhawks on their current home court, noted not just the classic, basketball-focused structure but also the “very knowledgeable” fans who fill it.

“That building, they play at an incredible level,” Terry said. “That building brings a lot of energy to their team and has been tremendous over the years in the Big 12.”

Terry spoke about some of his most memorable games coaching in Allen Fieldhouse. Before discussing the Longhorns’ first victory in the historic building, he touched on two losses.

First, he spoke about a game in 2003 when TJ Ford just missed an attempt at a game-tying three-point shot at the buzzer in a 90-87 loss. Ford almost notched a triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Kirk Hinrich had 25 points and Nick Collison tallied 24 points and 23 rebounds for KU.

“Went and lost a possession game in there we felt like we should have won,” Terry said. “They had a good team, too. They were a Final Four team that year as well.”

Then, he spoke about a 90-86 loss in 2007 when the Longhorns squandered a 12-point halftime lead and a 32-point night from Kevin Durant (plus a 19-point, 13-assist outing from D.J. Augustin) in a game with massive Big 12 regular season title implications. For the Jayhawks, Mario Chalmers scored 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting while Julian Wright added 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Finally, Terry spoke about the Longhorns’ first win in Lawrence as members of the Big 12 Conference. In that contest, Texas started extremely slow and trailed 18-3 with 14:41 left to go in the first half. He recalled how Barnes had two true freshmen in Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph in the lineup and the team’s struggles early in the contest. The Longhorns trailed 35-23 at half.

Slowly but surely, Texas came back. UT took the lead for good with 10 minutes left in the game when Thompson laid it up and in off an assist from Dogus Balbay. Texas left Lawrence with a 74-63 victory, the programs’ first in the Phog.

Texas’ only other win took place in the 2020-21 season. On the same day Tom Herman was let go as head coach of the Longhorn football program and Steve Sarkisian was brought in as his replacement, Texas shellacked Kansas 84-59 in front of a limited crowd of 2,500 — just 15% of the arena’s normal capacity.

Winning in Allen Fieldhouse is obviously a challenge. The Jayhawks have won 88 percent of their contests in the venue and have sold out 365 straight games. Under current KU head coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks have rock chalked over opponents 312 times in 329 opportunities.

And for the foreseeable future, this might be the last time Texas gets an opportunity to win against the Jayhawks. The Big 12 did not include two games against KU on the Texas 2023-24 schedule as part of the format used for the one season with 14 men’s basketball teams in the league. This matchup in Lawrence is the only contest scheduled between the two teams ahead of Texas’ move to the Southeastern Conference on July 1.

Terry mentioned Thursday that he and Self had discussions over the summer about exchanging neutral site games in cities close to Austin in Lawrence in the future, but did not elaborate on any further details.

All that means is that this Saturday will be the final time Texas is scheduled to play at Allen Fieldhouse. It’s the last chance for Texas to improve to 3-17 in Lawrence. It’s a chance to improve UT’s tournament resume and get off the bubble.

And it’s a final opportunity to pay heed to the Phog.

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“One of the best places to play in college basketball,” Terry said. “Talking about going up to Lawrence and being up in Allen Fieldhouse, it doesn’t get any better than that in college basketball.”

Tipoff on Saturday is scheduled for 5 p.m. The game will air on ESPN.

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