The free throw line was the Longhorns' best friend in a game they desperately needed.
Texas made more free throws (35) than field goals (18) and engineered another second half comeback to beat Kansas State, 75-64, on Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center. UT has won three games in a row.
"It's a great win for us," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We didn't have the intensity we needed in the first half. But in the second half we played terrific."
The Longhorns (17-7) went to the charity stripe 28 times in the second half and came away with 22 points. The Wildcats scored 24 points in the half and never made it to the line. Even Texas forward Alexis Wangmene had more points from free throws (nine) than the entire Kansas State team (eight). UT finished 35 of 48 from the line and 18 of 41 from the field.
Texas had four players with double-digit points, led by J'Covan Brown's 23. Wangmene scored 15, Myck Kabongo contributed 13 and Sheldon McClellan added 11 off the bench.
It was apparent from the start that the referees would call a tight game. There were 49 personal fouls between both teams.
"When the game started the refs were calling everything and we realized that," Brown said. "If you put the ball on the floor, you're going to get a call no matter what. We had to adjust to it on defense and go back at them and try to get to the rim. We got to the line and did a good job there."
The Longhorns started the game hot from the field and made five of their first six shots. But Texas struggled to get good looks afterwards, and missed 17 of their last 19 attempts in the half. Kansas State closed on a 22-8 run to take a 40-27 lead at the break.
But UT came out with a higher energy level to start the second half and used a 13-0 run to take a 44-43 lead. Texas cranked up its defense effort and got the Wildcats out of their comfort zone from the start and UT slowly pulled away.
"They came out in the second half and punched us in the mouth," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin. "They punched us again and again and again and got us on the ropes and we never punched back."
The Longhorns only had six turnovers against 16 assists, but they overcame those miscues with solid free throw shooting. The Wildcats committed 33 fouls against 16 for Texas.
Texas improved to 6-6 in the Big 12, tying K-State for fifth in the conference.
Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Horns beat Kansas State in third straight win