Texas rallied from a 15-point deficit for a critical 75-64 comeback
against Kansas State in Austin on Saturday. J’Covan Brown’s second-half
fireworks pulled Texas from the abyss, but it was Alexis Wangmene’s
finest day as a Longhorn that really capped off the victory.
Members, also see: Game Thoughts: K State Rematch and Individual Player Reports: K State Rematch
It was the fifth-year senior’s first collegiate double-double, as his 15 points and 13 boards were both career highs. Wangmene altered shots, including two blocks. As of late, he has given Texas the kind of front court presence typically seen as the missing link on this year’s team.
“There’s no question he’s played the best game he’s ever played at Texas,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
A home loss to perennial Longhorn-killer K-State would have put Texas on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble with six regular season games left. Instead, Saturday’s rally versus a quality opponent ranks alongside December’s win against Temple as the season’s best.
Texas raised its record to 16-9 following its first three-game win streak in two months. As important, the Horns are now 6-6 in Big 12 play. The conference is generally expected to send five teams to the NCAA Tournament, and no Big 12 school has advanced into the madness of March with a sub-.500 record
K-State fell to 17-7 overall and 6-6 in league play.
Brown led all scorers with 23 points (7-of-15 FG) and was one of four Longhorns to score in double figures. He also had four steals.
Texas shot 28 free throws in the second half, hitting 22. KSU didn’t shoot any following intermission. The ‘Cats were 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) from the charity stripe, while Texas finished 35-of-48 (72.9 percent).
Texas won the battle of the boards, 35-32.
It was dismal first-half from the floor for Texas, missing 18 of 25 attempts (28 percent) before shooting 68.8 percent (11-of-16) in the final frame. The Horns finished at 43.9 percent on the day. K-State shot 41.4 percent, but was just 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) in the second half after shooting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) during the first 20 minutes of play.
“They came out in the second half and punched us in the mouth,” said KSU coach Frank Martin, “and they punched us again and again.”
It was a fast-paced opening frame with a whistle-happy officiating drew. The Wildcats were in the bonus after Chapman was called for his second personal with 13:12 left. It was part of a 9-2 K-State run and an 18-15 lead for the visitors.
Texas then went ice cold. Brown’s bucket, giving Texas a 21-19 lead with 8:53 left, was UT’s last FG of the first half. The Horns missed 10 straight shots and also clanked all five of its first-half attempts from three-point range.
“We lacked the intensity we needed in the first half”, Barnes noted, adding that his team’s foul trouble “got us out of rhythm” down the stretch.
“We stopped driving the ball,” he explained. “We got out of sync.”
The Wildcats drained three straight treys to finish the frame on a 21-6 run and take a 40-27 lead into the locker room.
“We let our offense hurt our defense,” said Myck Kabongo, who finished with 13 points and three assists.
Kabongo was whistled for his third personal foul just 2:45 into the second half after the KSU lead swelled to 15. But Texas attacked the rim, saddling the K-State front court with foul trouble.
“The refs were calling everything,” Brown said. “Coach kept saying ‘Just drive it’ with the way the refs were calling the game.”
Arguably, the turning point was when Wangmene battled for a loose ball to give the possession back to Texas. He then followed with a put-back slam on the other end. Martin called for time when Julien Lewis’ shot off the glass trimmed the deficit, 44-36.
“I sat back and enjoyed the second half,” Barnes said. “We were in a constant attack mode…but it started on the defensive end.”
Sheldon McClellan’s three-pointer, 4:32 into the second period, was Texas’ first FG from outside the arc of the contest. His two-hand slam pulled Texas within 44-43 with 13:01 left as part of a 16-2 run.
The Wildcats scored five unanswered before Brown took over. His three-point play pulled Texas within one. Then, his NBA-range three gave Texas its first lead of the second half, 56-54, with eight minutes left. Brown’s acrobatic spin move spotted Texas a four-point lead as time neared the five minute mark.
“I’m very crafty when I spin,” Brown said. “When I spin, crazy things happen.”
Texas stepped it up, defensively, forcing a shot-clock violation and then back-to-back turnovers.
“They guarded us in every facet of the game,” Martin observed, “and we started playing one-on-one. When you start playing one-on-one, you have a zero chance of winning a college basketball game.”
Wangmene sank back-to-back FTs to give Texas a 66-56 lead with 3:27 left. The Cats hung around with a couple of three-balls, but the Horns sealed this one down the stretch at the charity stripe.
Texas takes its win-streak on a two-game road swing, starting Tuesday at Oklahoma. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.