Texas brought out the best in Chalmers
- Feb. 13, 2013
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Besides a non-conference get-together with Memphis, there’s probably not a more perfect opponent for Kansas to play when it retires Mario Chalmers’ jersey than Texas.
Known for hitting the critical shot against Memphis in the 2008 NCAA Championship game, Chalmers also played some of his best basketball against the Longhorns. He averaged 17.6 points in six games against Texas, including a 20.3 scoring average in his final four games against them.
Kansas coach Bill Self said that it’s merely coincidence that Chalmers, now the Miami Heat’s starting point guard, will see his jersey retired against a team that brought out the best in him.
“The reason we picked that day was strictly because of NBA all-star weekend,” Self said. “The fact that it’s Texas and he performed so well against Texas and it’s College Gameday definitely just adds to it.”
Chalmers probably was not the biggest name on the floor whenever the Jayhawks and Longhorns faced off. His teammates included Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins.
Those Texas teams featured names like LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams.
During the two matchups in the 2006-2007 season, the spotlight belonged to a freshman named Kevin Durant. He dropped 32 and 37 points against the Jayhawks. But Kansas never lost to him.
Chalmers’ Jayhawks beat Texas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game during each of his three years in a Kansas uniform.
He scored 15 points and went 4-4 from 3-point range in his freshman year in the 2006 Big 12 Tournament championship game, earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
The next year he scored 17 points and made the game-tying 3-pointer (sound familiar?) with 15 seconds left in regulation against Texas in the Big 12 final. Kansas won 88-84 in overtime.
“I knew Mario could make big shots going back to his freshman year,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I didn’t need to wait to see it then, and everybody always talked about with that team once we got into it everybody knew who our go-to guy was even though we didn’t publicly state that.”
That game was one of the most entertaining in Big 12 Tournament history. Durant dropped 37. His teammate A.J. Abrams hung 19. So did Kansas’ Julian Wright and Brandon Rush. Sherron Collins had 20.
When the game started, it seemed like Texas would win no matter what any Jayhawk did. Texas used an early 19-2 run to go up 32-10. Then Kansas pulled out a 24-7 run to close the halftime deficit to 39-34.
After Julian Wright put Kansas up 4-2 with 18:34 remaining in the first half, Kansas didn’t lead again until Chalmers hit two free throws with 7:51 left in the second half to make it 61-60 Kansas.
The Jayhawks never led by more than five points while Texas led by as many as 22 points. By the end of overtime, the two teams had combined for 146 shot attempts. Brandon Rush played 44 minutes.
Four Longhorns played at least 40 minutes. But the most important stat was the final score, 88-84, made possible by Chalmers’ three late in regulation.
“But he was also a guy that was a great teammate and could score four points in a game and be totally content because somebody else was having a big game,” Self said. “That team had so many weapons and everybody knew how to play and how to share it. It would be a different guy most every night.”
Chalmers closed out the Big 12 Tournament his junior year with a career-high 30 points against Texas and made eight of his 12 3-pointers. His 30 points tied the Kansas record for most points in a tournament game.
Self said that was one of his most distinct Chalmers memories.
“He also made a shot off the same play in the ‘07 one to beat Durant and Augustin,” Self said. “When you play in games it doesn’t always turnout great, but with him the vast majority did.”
His regular-season victory against Texas came during his sophomore season, in the final game of the regular season, at Allen Fieldhouse. The Longhorns led 54-42 at halftime as Durant dropped 25 points in the first 20 minutes of play. Chalmers was the one that kept Kansas in the game, scoring 13 points in the first frame. In the second half, the Jayhawks’ ensemble torched Texas 48-32 to eradicate the Longhorns’ advantage and give Kansas the 90-86 victory.