Tournament hopes in jeopardy as Texas drops must-win game to Kansas State, 58-48

Dalton Phillips

Just two weeks ago, Kansas State marched into the Frank Erwin Center and stole a win on Texas’ home court. On Wednesday night in Manhattan, Kansas, the Longhorns were unable to return the favor.

Kansas State junior guard Barry Brown torched Texas for 14 points in the second half as the Wildcats completed the season sweep of Texas, defeating the Longhorns 58-48.

Like so many games this season, the Longhorns lost on another dismal shooting performance. Texas (16–12, 6–9 Big 12) found the bottom of the net on just 2-of-18 tries from behind the arc. The loss pushed Texas’ season further to the brink — and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“We needed to play better defense down the stretch, but also needed to score,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought Kansas State’s aggressiveness on the defensive end got our guys on our heels. We were not assertive enough or aggressive enough — screening, cutting and executing on what we were trying to do. And that is part of the reason we scored so few.”

Wednesday night was a grind from the opening tip. The two teams, clawing to secure an NCAA Tournament bid, came out with the physicality and urgency often reserved for postseason games.

Kansas State had great success in the first meeting of the season clogging the paint and daring Texas to take long shots, and the Wildcats opened in a similar scheme on Wednesday.

Texas responded, as Smart often does, by going big.

Junior guard Kerwin Roach II broke up a pass and took off for a transition basket. He rose up and delivered a one-handed flush to put Texas back on top. With a burst of momentum, the Longhorns rattled off six straight points to pull ahead midway through the first half.

But Texas was unable to capitalize on the other end. The team missed several wide open looks and failed to score for more than four minutes — an all-too familiar trend for the young roster.

Fueled by back-to-back Texas turnovers, Kansas State mustered a run of its own to even the score heading into halftime.

The long ball continued to evade the Longhorns in the second half as a number of open looks proved off the mark. Texas missed 17 of its first 20 shots, often contested shots as the clock expired.

The Longhorns were unable to convert a field goal for an excruciating six-minute stretch in the second half. Neither team was able to capitalize on the other’s errors, until freshman forward Jericho Sims broke the drought on a tip-in to cut Kansas State’s lead to two.

“Some of those were really good shots that we just didn’t knock down,” Smart said. “Other situations we didn’t do a good job executing early in the clock, and that put us in a tough spot late in the clock. But when you combine those two, that’s what leads to us shooting such a poor percentage in the second half.”

But Texas’ shooting woes hampered any opportunity to close the gap.

With seven minutes to play, Texas entered the bonus and took advantage. Freshman guard Matt Coleman took two straight trips to the free throw line, calmly burying all four shots to tie the game for the first time since the start of the second half.

Kansas State responded, but again Coleman drew contact heading to the rim. Texas pulled ahead 44-42 with five minutes to play behind the clutch foul shooting from its floor general.

But the Longhorns’ next two trips came up empty, and Kansas State began to pull away.

The Wildcats closed on an 16-4 run to ice the game.

“We had a lead with a little over five minutes left in the game. The score was 44-42,” Smart said. “Neither team set the world on fire offensively, but our defense had put us in the position to win the game at
that point.”

Texas is left staring down three remaining games — two of which are against top-25 opponents. From here on out, it’s an uphill battle for the NCAA Tournament.