With 43 seconds left in Tuesday night’s game, senior guard Matt Coleman missed an easy breakaway dunk that would have put the Longhorns up by six. Then, Kansas State senior guard Mike McGuirl drained a deep 3-pointer to bring his Wildcats, on a 10-game losing streak, within one point of Texas.
An upset loss to 5–15 Kansas State would’ve sounded the alarm for the No. 13 Longhorns, who had lost their last three games. Instead, Coleman calmly sank four free throws down the stretch to come away with a much-needed 80-77 win in Manhattan, Kansas.
“There’s a lot of plays to learn from,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “A bunch of guys in the locker room said to me, ‘I know you’re going to be showing me that tape.’”
After being unstoppable for most of the night, Texas’ offense ground to a halt late in the game and allowed the Wildcats to claw their way back from a 16-point deficit.
But, needing a basket with Texas only one point up after McGuirl’s 3-pointer, redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones made something out of nothing on a stagnant offensive possession and drew a foul to get to the line.
Texas’ leading scorer came to the free throw line and made them both, capping an impressive scoring performance. Coleman followed Jones’ example and made four game-clinching free throws after being intentionally fouled twice.
“Against Baylor, if we make a majority of our free throws, it’s a close game,” Jones said. “So it was very important for us as a veteran team to do the little things that go on to winning and securing close games.”
Freshman forward Greg Brown led an early charge out of the gate, draining his first two 3-pointers with no hesitation en route to 14 first half points. A Texas offense that couldn’t make a shot on Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, shooting only 25% and 5-of-35 from three, came out ready to fire away on Tuesday.
Not to be denied, however, Kansas State shot the ball well from three, going toe-to-toe with Texas’ early offense before wilting toward the end of the first half.
It was a different Kansas State team that met the Longhorns Tuesday than on Jan. 16, when Texas easily blew out the Wildcats 82-67. Wildcat freshman guard Nijel Pack didn’t play a single minute in the two teams’ first matchup. He started on Tuesday’s game and had an early 10 points in the first half to match Brown.
“Kansas State deserves a lot of credit,” Smart said. “They made some tough shots … We didn’t have the defensive activity and intensity that we had the other day against Oklahoma State, and Kansas State really capitalized.”
It was also a different Texas team, still getting back into rhythm after the 19-day stretch without a full roster due to COVID-19 issues and reeling from losing four out of the last five games.
Jones emphasized the need to build chemistry after the time off, and he started off Tuesday’s game looking to pass, not attempting a single shot for the first 17 minutes.
“At the pregame meal today, (Jones) told me, ‘I got to get other guys involved. I didn’t have any assists last game,’” Smart said. “I’m thinking, ‘Hey, we still need you to score, though.’ But it’s a great mentality that he had … I think we’re learning how to win again.”