The game wasn't settled until the final possession, but the Texas Longhorns picked up an important road win against Kansas State tonight, prevailing 71-70. Justin Edwards led all scorers with 20 points, while Isaiah Taylor nearly matched his output with 19.
Javan Felix missed the front end of a one and one with 14 seconds remaining, giving Kansas State the opportunity to take the final shot of the game. Freshman Dean Wade, who had nine points on the evening, had the chance to shoot for the win, but his shot hit the front of the rim.
The game was not easy on the eyes. There were tight whistles the whole game, and foul trouble quickly piled up for the Longhorns. We talk about adjusting to the the way the game is officiated, and in this game both teams did, but not in the way that we usually mean. Both teams clearly recognized that pretty much any contact was going to be called a foul, and so both teams largely abandoned running offense for significant stretches of the game, and instead just started throwing themselves into contact. This is what we call "freedom of movement."
But despite the rocky start with the men in striped shirts, the Texas Longhorn offense got off to a hot start. Javan Felix was aggressive early, driving the basket and scoring 11 first half points. Teammate Eric Davis was also very active on offense, hitting two early threes, and finishing the game with ten points.
The Wildcats struck back hard, or at least as hard as the game would allow. Justin Edwards was feeling it from the opening tip, and Kansas State wisely put the ball inside to DJ Johnson, who was able to score around the basket as the Longhorn big men struggled with both ball-screen defense and defending without fouling.
Longhorn foul trouble came to a head early in the second half, when by the under-16 media timeout both Shaquille Cleare and Prince Ibeh were on the bench with four fouls. During this time period, the Longhorns went to a small lineup, playing both Connor Lammert and Tevin Mack together. This lineup was able to find a lot of easy looks on offense, and Texas was able to hit enough of them to compensate for the loss of their big men. Later Ibeh would return to the game and foul out.
Throughout the game it seemed inevitable that the game would come down to the final few possessions. The Texas Longhorns got the end of game action going when Isaiah Taylor hit a three with 43 seconds left, which put the Horns up by four. It wasn't a very good shot, coming off the dribble with a defender in good position to contest, but sometimes bad shots go in.
Wesley Iwundu quickly struck back, converting a layup with 36 seconds remaining to make it a two point game.
For the Longhorns, the game came down to free throws. Taylor hit two on the following possession, putting Shaka Smart's men back up by four points, before a tough Barry Brown three with 18 seconds on the clock left Texas clinging to a one point lead.
And that one point lead would hold when Javan Felix missed the first shot of a one and one, and Dean Wade missed the final shot of the game.
There are no style points on the road.
- The Texas offense will go through a difficult adjustment period as soon as Isaiah Taylor decides to pursue basketball professionally. Taylor bails the offense out so often when things bog down. In a game tonight where the whistles were frequent and the opponent's defense was strong his ability to attack off the dribble, draw contact, and sink his free throws came in rather handy. Taylor was 8-8 from the free throw line and 5-8 from the floor, and had four assists and only two turnovers in 30 minutes. That is how you win on the road.
- Another thing that helps to win on the road is hitting some perimeter shots. The Longhorns were 9-18 from three point range. While Connor Lammert, who was 2-7 from beyond the arc, didn't really have it tonight, the rest of the Longhorns were plenty good from the perimeter. Texas was able to get a lot of clean drive and kick threes, particularly when Lammert and Mack played as the two big men on the floor. With four shooters spread around Taylor, you are going to get open looks from long range.
- If you want to know how strange the officiating was in this one tonight, I won't quote you foul statistics. OK, maybe I will; this game saw more than one foul called per minute of play. But even stranger -- Kansas State was called for two different three second violations in the first eight minutes of the game. You can watch games for a week without seeing that call twice.
- While he didn't have that great of a game, Kansas State freshman Dean Wade is going to be a problem for the Big 12. He is 6-10, can shoot the ball, can handle, pass, and rebound. He can score around the rim. Four years of this guy will be no fun.