Wildcats “own Texas” again, 84-80

19 Jan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – On a Wednesday night in Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats escaped with an 84-80 win over Texas despite missing 7 of 10 free throws in the last minute and 14 seconds of the game.

“We had a chance to win it,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We’ve played enough games now we should be able to handle it.”

Rodney McGruder scored a career-high 33 points in the game. Jamar Samuels scored 14, and Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling each added 11.

The penetration of the lane by guards and persistence of the big men gave the Wildcats 39 opportunities at the foul line. Incredibly, taking advantage of just 21 of those would be enough.

For Texas, J’Covan Brown – who had been leading the league in scoring – got off to a slow start, scoring just five points in the first half before coming alive in the second to finish with 22.

Sheldon McClellan provided a steadier presence throughout the game and ended up with 19 points. Brown made a 3-pointer and a layup to bring the Longhorns within three points with 30 seconds left, but it would not be enough.

“They simply overpowered us inside,” Barnes said. “Not only their post guys, but their guards were able to get pretty deep with us.”

The Wildcats did not necessarily shoot out of the gate to start the game, but nine minutes into the first half, Kansas State went on an 11-0 run that began with three consecutive 3-pointers – two from McGruder from the baseline in front of the band, and another from Spradling on the opposite side. The treys gave the Wildcats a 29-18 lead.

Myck Kabongo briefly interrupted the Wildcats’ momentum with an old-fashioned three-point play, but a 3-pointer from Samuels and acrobatic layup by Martavious Irving in traffic gave Kansas State a 15-point advantage.

Another basket by Kabongo cut the Wildcats’ lead to 36-23, and Clint Chapman turned aggressive post play into seven straight points with two buckets and three free throws. After an outside shot by McClellan, Texas trailed only 36-32 with four minutes to play in the half.

Four consecutive missed free throws for the Wildcats – two by Victor Ojeleye and one each by Angel Rodriguez and Samuels – stilted the offense and gave way to eight unanswered points by the Longhorns, and Texas took a 40-38 lead.

The Wildcats would reclaim the lead before halftime, but even with only five points from Brown, the Longhorns went into halftime down just one point, 43-42.

McGruder, who scored the Wildcats’ first basket and totaled 16 points in the first half, got Kansas State off to a good start in the second half as well. His drives into the lane yielded five points on six free throw attempts early, creating a six-point separation in favor of Kansas State.

Down the stretch, Texas cut the lead to two points on five occasions before the midpoint of the second half, but Kansas State answered each time, increasing the deficit to four nearly every time it scored.

McGruder captained the Wildcats’ charge to pull away from the Longhorns with a bucket that would give him 29 points with six minutes to play. Thomas Gipson went strong to the rim and collected a free throw and a bucket on consecutive possessions to give Kansas State a 75-68 lead with 3:51 to play.

Free throws by Alexis Wangmene cut the gap to five points, but Texas had no answers defensively, and a free throw by Irving on one possession and a bucket by him on the following one gave Kansas State an 80-73 lead with 1:14 to play.

While Brown would get a few shots to go at the end, Martin seemed happy with his team’s defensive effort overall.

“I was pretty pleased how we stuck to our disciplines down the stretch,” he said. “We ran offense, and we got the right guys to the foul line.”

With the win, the Wildcats moved to 13-4 and 2-3 in Big 12 play. In their first three conference games, they played three Top 25 teams.

 

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