Behind four players scoring in double digits, the No. 14 Texas Longhorns overcame a slow start against the short-handed Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan, pulling out a 70-57 victory thanks a big run early in the second half.
Down to only seven scholarship players and without head coach Bruce Weber, Kansas State proved game early despite a small home crowd, leading for much of the first half.
But some strong play from the Texas frontcourt erased a six-point halftime lead for Kansas State as the Longhorns ripped off a decisive 18-2 run capped by two three-pointers by senior guard Courtney Ramey. Like Texas overall, the St. Louis product got off to a slow start before finishing with 14 points.
If Ramey didn’t heat up until the second half, Carr maintained his aggressive demeanor throughout — his 11 points in the first half helped keep Texas in the game and his drives to the basket after halftime helped the Horns get easy points at the foul line after failing to earn a visit to the free-throw line in the opening 20 minutes. Carr finished with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting at the free-throw line. He also made three three-pointers, tallied seven rebounds, and made the right plays when his teammates were open, finishing with a team-high five assists.
The aggressiveness was necessary for Carr because Texas was missing senior guard Andrew Jones due to COVID-19 protocols and struggled shooting early in the game, hitting only two of their first 10 three-point attempts.
Carr received help from more than just Ramey, though — senior forward Timmy Allen found multiple ways to impact the game, cutting off the ball for baskets, getting to the free-throw line, coming up with four offensive rebounds among his 14 boards, and dishing three assists. Allen finished with 17 points, while junior forward Dylan Disu contributed 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
With Kansas State limited in the frontcourt even before Carlton Linguard Jr. got into foul trouble, Texas cleaned up on the backboards, out-rebounding the Wildcats 40-28, including 10 offensive rebounds, to make up for a subpar performance in defensive intensity as Kansas State only turned the ball over six times.
But there will certainly be plenty of coaching points for Texas head coach Chris Beard after the Longhorns got off to a slow start offensively and struggled to contain Wildcats guard Nijel Pack, who finished with 21 points after hitting his first four shots from the field.
Kansas State scored the game’s first seven points before Disu put Texas on the board with a nifty post move and added another bucket on a spinning move to the basket. By the under-16 timeout, the Longhorns already had three turnovers while allowing two threes by the Wildcats.
The decision by Kansas State to run a five-out offense had Texas scrambling early on longer rotations than normal and playing three forwards at times hardly unlocked the offense.
At halftime, the Wildcats were shooting 50 percent from the field and held a 35-29 lead.
Texas showed a more concerted effort to get the ball into the paint after halftime, tying the game after a nice dish from Allen to senior forward Christian Bishop for a layup, a post move by junior forward Tre Mitchell for his first basket, and a post move by Disu. The defensive intensity increased, too — Kansas State didn’t score in the first four minutes of the second half with four missed shots and a turnover.
The scoreless streak finally ended for the Wildcats at the 14:51 mark to tie the game following a made jumper by Disu. After finishing through contact on the next possession with no foul called, Carr aggressively went to the basket again, earning the first free throws for Texas after a little more than 26 minutes of game time. Carr kept driving following a missed dunk attempt by the Wildcats that Disu influenced, drawing another shooting foul with the Longhorns on a 12-2 run. Two consecutive threes by Ramey extended the run and pushed the lead to 47-37.
Any time Kansas State showed signs of seriously cutting into the Texas lead over the remainder of the game, the Horns responded, aided by numerous trips to the foul line — Beard’s team attempted 18 free throws in the second half.
Based on all the absences for the Wildcats, this profiled as a game the Longhorns should have controlled throughout. Instead, Texas only sporadically managed to play strong basketball.
But a win is a win in college basketball and the Horns have now stacked six in a row with a trip to Stillwater to play the Cowboys looming on Saturday.