LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Give me the ball, Acie Law pleaded with his head coach. Because Billy Gillispie did, the Big 12 South is 1-31 in Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse instead of 0-32 and Texas A&M has the conference lead all to itself.
Law scored his team’s last five points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer over Brandon Rush with 20 seconds to go, and the 10th-ranked Aggies erased a 10-point deficit to beat No. 6 Kansas 69-66 Saturday night.
The victory was A&M’s first over Kansas since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, and the first for any South Division team in Allen Fieldhouse since the advent of the league. It left the Aggies (19-3, 7-1 Big 12) all alone in first place just three years after stumbling 0-16 through the conference season.
“It’s a great feeling when you beat a team like Kansas on their home floor in front of this great crowd,” said Law, who had 23 points. “This is one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m sure a lot of people will feel that way also.”
The Jayhawks (19-4, 6-2) went up 62-52 with 6:33 to play on Sasha Kaun’s baseline hook shot and seemed comfortably headed for their 12th straight victory over the Aggies.
But then Law led A&M on a 12-2 run, capped by a three-point play by Antanas Kavaliauskas that made it 64-all with a minute to play.
“It was (Law’s) game at that point,” Gillispie said. “He told me he wanted the ball in his hands. So I said, `OK, you’re coaching, you got it.’ He’ll probably be a lot better coach than me.”
After Kavaliauskas tied it, Julian Wright worked inside for a bank shot with 45 seconds left that put Kansas back on top 66-64.
Following A&M’s time out, Law drilled his winner for a 67-66 lead with 20 seconds left, the Aggies’ first since it was 26-24 in the first half.
“Brandon played off of me a little bit and If felt like he thought I was going to drive it,” Law said. “I felt like that was a great opportunity to go for the win. Being the kind of team that we are on the road, why not go for it all, just lay it on the line?”
Kansas coach Bill Self agreed A&M’s experience may have played a small part in the victory over his collection of freshmen and sophomores, but only a small part.
“There was one guy who put them on his back. They had a lot of experienced guys, but you could have put some inexperienced guys out there with Acie and he was going to make some plays,” said Self.
After Mario Chalmers missed for Kansas following Law’s 3-pointer, Law was fouled grabbing the rebound and hit two free throws that gave the Aggies a 69-66 lead with 5.2 seconds to go.
“Every time we made a run, they made a run right back,” Rush said. “I’m a little frustrated. We should have won that game. We let this one slip away.”
Josh Carter had 11 points for Texas A&M and Joseph Jones and Dominique Kirk each had 10.
Kansas, which had been 31-0 at home against the South, got 18 points from Sherron Collins, 11 from Wright and 10 from Rush, who was only 3-for-13 from the field.
Collins, clearly the Jayhawks’ best player all night long, committed a careless mistake that helped fuel A&M’s surge. His bad pass was intercepted by the Aggies and Law went down for his three-point play that turned a 64-58 Jayhawks lead into a precarious 64-61.
“We got a little too eager,” Collins said. “I think we did well as a team, but we have to do better. Law is great. You have to give him his credit.”
With a 30-18 edge, the Jayhawks became the first team all year to outscore the Aggies in the paint. They also outrebounded the visitors 40-29, and appeared to be in position to seize first place in the league after Kaun’s hook shot went in for a 62-52 lead.
But then Law capped a quick 6-0 spurt with a short jumper. After Russell Robinson’s two free throws, Law went in from the baseline for a hook shot that drew a foul from Rush. He made the free throw that made it 64-61 and then Kavaliauskas completed the comeback with exactly a minute to play.
The Jayhawks shot only 42 percent against an Aggies defense that came in leading the country, but still held their biggest lead at 57-46 with 9:49 to go.
“We just wouldn’t quit, no matter what the situation looked like,” Gillispie said. “We just hung in there. We played play after play down the stretch. I guess that is how you win games on the road. It’s a great win for us.”