LAWRENCE, Kan. — So here Kansas was, slogging along in the opening minutes Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. Texas looked a step lighter, KU a little tight, and the Longhorns were nabbing every rebound and leading 8-3.
In those fleeting first few minutes, maybe this was going to be a game. Maybe the night would end with the 19th-ranked Longhorns just a game behind the eighth-ranked Jayhawks in the Big 12 race that seemingly has become a KU birthright.
And we'd be left wondering anew about the wandering tendency that still seemed left in an abundantly gifted team that no longer is allowed to be as young as it actually is.
Then Joel Embiid blocked a shot, and Wayne Selden converted it into a basket. And after the accompanying media timeout, during which coach Bill Self perhaps offered some gentle encouragement, nothing was the same as KU uncorked a 43-10 rampage to end the half on the way to an 85-54 victory.
It was so lopsided by the end that afterward Texas coach Rick Barnes suggested Kansas fans deserved a refund as he invoked Self's "Topeka YMCA" routine, only with the Longhorns as the foil in this one.
But Barnes also clarified a point he'd made earlier this season when he said he thought Kansas was the best team in the country.
"What I should have said (was) that at the end," he said, "I think they'll be the best team in the country."
It sure looked like it in the decisive first half.
And there were so many things you could point to in that span: five blocked shots and six rebounds by Embiid; Texas going 8-plus minutes without a basket and missing 23 of 29 field goals in the half; the Jayhawks seizing 21 of the last 29 rebounds in the half.
Nothing reverberated, though, like the dazzle of Andrew Wiggins, who turns 19 today and steadily enough has been coming of age and beginning to fulfill his immense promise.
But Wiggins' half (15 points) and night overall (21 points, six rebounds) was a quantum leap of sorts.
With two dunks and three three-pointers in a span of 6 minutes, Wiggins was evoking wows even as the echoes of the previous one were still caroming around Allen.
And then there was the fact that it came against Texas, the lead pretender to KU's throne and 81-69 victor over the Jayhawks on Feb. 1.
"We got embarrassed at their place; we wanted to do the same thing to them," he said, adding, "I was fired up for this game."
That was only six games back, and it was particularly exasperating for Wiggins. He was stranded somewhere between tentative and off-kilter as he made just two of 12 field goals. He finished with seven points before he fouled out for the first time in his collegiate career.
Never mind that it was the only time in the last 10 games Wiggins hasn't been in double figures and that it came immediately after he'd gone for 27 against TCU and 29 against Iowa State.
Forget that such things just can happen to freshmen on the road, even the most-hyped freshman in the nation.
To those inclined to suggest he hasn't been what was anticipated, that was more fodder to downgrade or dismiss him.
And even to more even-handed observers, it was a reminder that however high Wiggins' ceiling might be, the future is only here and now for a one-and-done college player.
Lapses are understandable as part of a four-year gestation period, but they are magnified when it's the fast track. And Wiggins may have more in front of him, especially considering the NCAA Tournament is an entirely different crucible for freshmen.
But Wiggins has a foundation and traction under him now, especially as the rest of the team seems to be finding its identity . . . even if it's not necesessarily the identity Self was seeking on defense.
"We're not (that)," Self said, "but they are prideful."
So now here's Wiggins, who with a 16-point-plus average is on pace to become the leading freshman scorer in KU's storied history, taking another step forward scoring the first game-winning shot of his Kansas career against TCU, and, in fact, is pleasing Self with his defense.
"He's playing great; how can anybody say (otherwise?)," Self said. "The last game, he drove it for us to win the game. This game he shot for us to win the game. And look at the guy he guards.
"The guy he guards usually doesn't get very many. . . . I thought he was really good."
And now the Jayhawks can clinch at least a tie for their 10th straight Big 12 title on Monday against Oklahoma. That doesn't necessarily answer what will become of Kansas in March, which will go a long way towards defining Wiggins' legacy.
But it does say that Wiggins is arriving just in time.