You can breathe now.
After losing three straight games, Shaka Smart and the No. 13 Texas Longhorns (12-5, 6-4) got back in the win column with an 80-77 victory over the Kansas State Wilcats (5-16, 1-11).
Redshirt junior Andrew Jones led Texas with 24 points and went nuclear after halftime, stretching the Horns lead thanks in part to three triples, as well as 17-points in the final half.
The Longhorns reached 80 points for the third time in conference play, with two of those performances coming against the Wildcats and the other being the 25-point victory over Kansas.
The Horns led by as much as 16 points in the second half, but saw their lead dwindle to one after Matt Coleman missed an open dunk and the Wildcats knocked down a three-pointer on the ensuing possession with 42.7 seconds left.
Unlike the poor free throw shooting down the stretch that hurt Texas against Oklahoma State, the Horns went 6-6 from the charity stripe in the final 30 seconds to clinch the victory.
“We learned from our mistakes that if we make majority of our free-throws, it’s a closer game,” Jones said afterward. “It was very important for us as a veteran team to do the little things that go into winning and securing close games.”
Both teams came out in the first half shooting lights out, shooting above 50 percent from the floor and from three point land.
“I thought to start the game we didn't have the defensive activity and intensity that we had against Oklahoma State and Kansas State really capitalized,” Shaka Smart said after the game.
Freshman Greg Brown was nearly perfect in the opening frame, shooting 5-6 overall from the floor and 3-3 from beyond the arc. Brown was quiet to start the second half — getting caught up in foul trouble, but he drained a massive three to put Texas up seven with three to go after the Wildcats had cut the lead to four points.
“I think this was one of [Greg’s] better games,” Shaka said. “I just think he played with poise, had the look of a guy that was playing efficiently. He rebounded the ball well...I thought his last three was just a huge shot for us and it’s too bad he couldn’t play more minutes.”
Brown finished with 17 points on 6-8 shooting including 4-5 from three-point land along with seven rebounds.
Texas improves to 6-3 in games decided by six points or less but it’s their first close game victory since they beat West Virginia 72-70 on Jan. 9. The Horns have lost by two (Texas Tech) and one (Oklahoma) since then.
Coach Smart missed one game due to COVID-19 and the program's basketball activities were shut down the week before Texas played No. 2 Baylor, with practice opening up just two days before.
“We were disjointed for a while, guys being away, me being away and I think we’re still coming back from that chemistry wise,” Smart said.
Coach Smart also mentioned that the team is “learning how to win again” after losing four out of their last five and dealing with COVID-19 issues within.
The Longhorns will return to the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday to host TCU at 1 p.m. CT on Longhorn Network.
Bruce Webber and the Wildcats have now lost 11 straight games but remain ahead of the winless Iowa State Cyclones.
- We’ll ignore the missed dunk but I thought Matt Coleman played well despite only scoring 10 points. He knocked down four straight free-throws to keep TCU at arm's length and posted a plus-nine net rating.
- Jase Febres appeared in his third game since returning from knee surgery but clearly is still trying to find his form on the court. Febres was 2-6 from the floor and 1-5 from three in 26 minutes.
- Kai Jones continues to be the first man off the bench but Shaka is still tinkering with his bench. This is really the first time all year he’s had everyone healthy and eligible to play. Febres/K. Jones/Brock Cunningham received most of the bench minutes with Kamaka Hepa seeing a little action but Royce Hamm Jr. (more on him later) and Donovan Williams were DNPs.
- Royce Hamm Jr. posted a cryptic tweet following the Texas victory where he did not see any playing time.
Loyalty means nothing nowadays!— Royce Hamm (@R0v_ce) February 10, 2021
Shaka was asked about it and said he wanted to make sure Jase Febres and Kamaka Hepa received playing time. “We’re just trying to win the game and [substitute] for what’s best for Texas,” Smart said.
- Greg Brown had a great performance but picked up his second technical in as many games. Love the energy from the big guy but he needs to listen to his coach and teammates and just not talk to the refs.