Defense lets Longhorns down in another blowout loss to Kansas State

Christian Corona

Texas hasn’t had much to rely on this season, but it could usually count on a solid defensive effort.

The Longhorns didn’t get one this weekend. They came into their game against Kansas State with the nation’s best three-point defense, holding opponents to 26.8 percent from beyond the arc. But that was before the Wildcats hit nine of 18 attempts from three-point range in a 81-69 win over Texas at the Erwin Center on Saturday.

“You look at the way some people played, we have to redo the lineup,” Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes said. “We need consistency. And we need it from certain guys every single night… Guys get complacent and think they’ve arrived.”

Kansas State shot 48.1 percent from the floor and knocked down 20 of its 22 (90.9 percent) free throws in the victory, their second lopsided win over the Longhorns this season. The Wildcats handed Texas a 83-57 loss on Jan. 30, its worst road loss ever in Big 12 play.

Things didn’t go much better for the Longhorns on Saturday. Myck Kabongo scored a career-high 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting while fellow sophomore Sheldon McClellan scored 15 while hitting seven of his 10 field goal attempts. The rest of the team was just 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) from the floor.

“He’s a good player,” Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez said. “He’s pretty fast, especially when he’s trying to push the ball and he has a running start. In the scouting report, it said he wasn’t a good shooter but today he made two [three-pointers]. He played a good game.”

After playing just one minute in Tuesday’s win over TCU, McClellan was much more involved Saturday, playing 28 minutes off the bench. The last time he played only one minute in a game, during a loss to Iowa State earlier this year, he bounced back and scored 18 points in Texas’ next game, a 64-59 loss to Kansas.

“It’s nothing that really motivates me,” McClellan said. “I put that in the past. I just move on to the next game, just do whatever I can to help my team win.”

Kabongo’s layup on Texas’ first possession of the game gave the Longhorns a 2-0 lead, the only one it would hold all night. Kansas State started the game on a 13-4 run and led by as many as 12 points in the opening period but a 15-6 Longhorns run trimmed the Wildcats’ lead to three points in the final minute of the first half.

But Kansas State scored five points in the final 21 seconds of the first half as Shane Southwell followed up a pair of Angel Rodriguez free throws with a runner from beyond the arc that barely beat the buzzer.

“It was big,” freshman Ioannis Papapetrou said. “It shifted the momentum of the game. Instead of it being a one-possession game, it ended up being a [three]-possession game.”

The Wildcats took an eight-point lead into halftime and pulled away in the second half, leading the Longhorns by as many as 19 points and eventually winning by 12. Kansas State won for the seventh time in eight games, improving to 22-5 while keeping its hopes of winning the Big 12 regular season title alive.

“We’re trying to win a championship,” Rodrgiuez said. “We have to play at a high level. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we should be alright.”

Texas, on the other hand, fell to 12-15 on the year and has won just four games in conference play. For the first time in 14 years under Rick Barnes, the Longhorns are going into their final regular season contests with virtually no chance of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

“We are who we are,” Barnes said. “The thing that bothers me about it is the effort, the preparation… When it goes like this, you’ll find out who checks out. If they check out, decisions will be made.”