No. 10 Texas erases 14-point road deficit for 69-66 win at No. 7 Kansas State, stays atop Big 12 standings

Feb 4, 2023; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Tyrese Hunter (4) is guarded by Kansas State Wildcats forward David N’Guessan (3) during the first half at Bramlage Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Texas erases 14-point road deficit for 69-66 win at No. 7 Kansas State, stays atop Big 12 standings

No. 10 Texas 69, No. 7 Kansas State 66

Texas toppled Kansas State 69-66 on the road in Manhattan, Kansas Saturday afternoon, erasing a 14-point first half lead before holding off the Wildcats in the final seconds. The win moves Texas to 8-2 in Big 12 play, one game clear of the rest of the conference heading into the new week. 

Four different Longhorns finished the game in double-figures, including both Sir’Jabari Rice and Christian Bishop off the bench. The Longhorns’ defense led the way, forcing 19 Kansas State turnovers while holding the Wildcats to just 6-of-19 from beyond the arc. 

Fans and students donning purple and white packed Bramlage Coliseum (known around the Big 12 as the “Octagon of Doom”) early and to the brim for Saturday afternoon’s top-10 matchup between No. 7 Kansas State and No. 10 Texas. After the Wildcats 116-103 win on the road in Austin back on Jan. 3, home fans were hoping for another fast-paced game and a regular season sweep of Texas for the first time since 2018. 

After the Longhorns allowed Kansas State to shoot 61.5% from the field in that early January loss, Texas knew it needed a better defensive showing Saturday afternoon on the road in Manhattan. Rodney Terry’s defense responded with a much better performance, forcing 19 Kansas State turnovers while holding the Wildcats to a much more pedestrian 44% from the field. Wildcat guards Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, who poured in 64 combined points on Jan. 3, finished with a combined 26 points for Kansas State. 

The afternoon got off to a less than ideal start for K-State, as leading scorer Keyontae Johnson picked up two fouls just 67 seconds into the ballgame and was removed from the game for the majority of the first half. Still, the Longhorns and Wildcats traded buckets early, and Kansas State led 8-7 after three Texas turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. 

Keyontae Johnson eventually re-entered the game with 12 minutes left in the first half, and he quickly made his presence felt with a bucket that extended K-State’s early lead to 15-9. The Longhorns succeeded at slowing the pace in the early going, but connected on just 3 of 10 field goals to start the game and missed their first four straight 3-pointers. When Desi Sills drilled Kansas State’s third triple of the day before the first half under-8 media timeout, the Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 23-14 – and the game’s tempo was beginning to resemble that of Jan. 3. 

Kansas State would use an 8-0 run to extend its lead to as many as 14, but Keyontae Johnson’s third foul of the first half sent him to the bench again with just over five minutes to play. Even without Johnson on the floor, Texas continued to struggle to narrow the gap. The Longhorns turned the basketball over 11 times in the first half, and shot the ball exceptionally poorly. 

Despite Johnson’s absence, Kansas State led 36-25 at halftime. Texas made only seven field goals in the first half (30.4%), and just one 3-pointer in nine attempts. The Longhorns were also out-rebounded, 19-12. Put simply, Texas had its work cut out for it if it hoped to finish the day alone in first place in the Big 12. 

Whatever interim head coach Rodney Terry told his team at halftime turned things around in a major way.

Texas started the second half the way it needed to, turning two Kansas State turnovers into transition buckets to trim the deficit to seven in a hurry. Tyrese Hunter drilled just the Longhorns’ second 3-pointer of the game moments later, and suddenly K-State’s lead was just 38-34 after a 14-4 Texas run that began just before halftime. 

Two free throws by Marcus Carr with 15 minutes left made it 40-39, and the Longhorns finally took back the lead 46-45 after a 3-point play by Christian Bishop with 12:05 to play – their first lead since the game’s opening moments. Texas made 9 of its first 12 field goal attempts in the second half, and 2 of its first 4 from beyond the arc – both more made shots than the Longhorns had in the entirety of the first half. Texas led 51-48 with 10:15 to play, as Kansas State’s turnover total reached 15. 

Texas would extend its largest lead of the game to 56-50 on Sir’Jabari Rice’s 3-pointer with 8:52 to go, and suddenly the capacity crowd at Bramlage Coliseum was more nervous than raucous. The increased defensive pressure the Longhorns were putting on the Wildcats was working, but the game’s increased physicality led to plenty of free throws for both teams down the stretch and very little free-flowing basketball. 

As the game became more muddy down the stretch, Kansas State began to cut back into the deficit behind good free throw shooting and defensive intensity. After the under-4 media timeout, Markquis Nowell’s mid-range jump shot tied the game at 64 with less than three minutes remaining, and his floater through traffic gave K-State a 66-65 advantage with 58 seconds to go. 

Christian Bishop continued his impressive second half for Texas with a layup that put the Horns back ahead 67-66 with 39 seconds left on the possession that followed, and Kansas State’s 19th turnover of the night led to Sir’Jabari Rice’s free throws and a 69-66 Texas lead with 9 seconds on the clock. Ismael Massoud’s attempt to tie the game at the buzzer hit nothing but air, and Texas escaped Bramlage Coliseum with a massive win. 

The Longhorns became the first Big 12 team to defeat Kansas State in Manhattan this season, and did so by erasing a 14-point deficit after a first half in which nothing seemed to go right. Christian Bishop and Sir’Jabari Rice, both off the bench, led the Longhorns with 14 points each. 

Things do not get any easier for the Longhorns, who will head down the road to No. 8 Kansas for a showdown Monday night in Lawrence.

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