Texas, as usual, played a basketball game that wasn’t very pretty throughout. But apart from the norm, the No. 25 Longhorns did break away from their recent strand of misfortunes by ending their four-game skid of consecutive Big 12 losses with a 61-57 victory over Kansas State in a game that came down to the final possession of the contest.
This was a game of runs and doors left open – primarily by the Longhorns – between two programs desperate for a win to try and right the ship that has become their underwhelming seasons. Texas found themselves down 11-12 early in the first half before a 13-0 run would leave them doubling the efforts of Kansas State with a 24-12 lead with the first half winding down. A few empty offensive possessions for Texas and a string of three pointers by K-State’s freshman guard Tre Harris led to an apparent comfortable Longhorns’ lead transforming into a 27-27 tie at halftime in Manhattan.
The same would be the case in the second half for Texas after falling behind early with Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner both riding the pine, leaving Texas' two weaker interior threats in to hold their own in a pivotal game. Insert Isaiah Taylor and his band of unsung heroes, who marched back and regained the momentum after Taylor continued to play aggressive offense and Connor Lammert starting knocking down consecutive looks from beyond the arc, giving Texas a 49-42 lead. Prince Ibeh also included himself in this mix with a four very meaningful points at the rim to compliment his block party on defense, which equaled out to four blocks for the game. This is the style of game it had to be for both teams, with Marcus Foster sitting for Kansas State and the Longhorns’ veteran leaders, Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix, both sitting with lingering concussion symptoms.
Kansas State would suffer through a stretch late in the second half when they went more than six minutes without connecting on a single field goal, which ultimately resulted in the Longhorns’ seemingly settling into a victory after having a 57-50 lead with the ball with under two minutes to play. Another quick assault of Wildcat threes and two missed free throws by Taylor to potentially seal the game later and hints of Texas dropping their fifth-straight conference matchup started to become imminent.
Texas was without two of their most reliable scorers on the road in the Octagon of Doom with the fate of the game now wagering between Kansas State’s streaky offense and a sometimes-dominant Longhorns defense. From that point, a season-defining stop and rebound by Ibeh led to two Taylor free throws that sealed the deal for a Longhorns team that could really benefit from some wins down the stretch.
Guys like Lammert and Ibeh played tremendously with Ridley and Turner watching from the sidelines, contributing 16 points on 6-9 shooting, 13 rebounds and four blocks between them. But the star of the show was none other than the most pivitol piece for Texas, with Taylor easily leading all scorers with 23 points, four assists and two boards. Taylor shot 6-10 from the field and 11-15 from the charity stripe.
Nino Williams had been on an impressive scoring run heading into tonight’s matchup, averaging 20 points per game during Kansas State’s three-game losing streak, but the Texas defense was able to hold Williams to only 13 points on 4-10 shooting, which ultimately could have been the difference in Texas ending their recent slump or watching the losses continue to pile up.
This wasn’t the most impressive victory Texas has had this season by any means, but it was a noteworthy performance nonetheless to go on the road in a hostile environment without the presences of Holmes and Felix and finally snag another conference win.
Next up for Texas are home games against TCU on Wednesday and Texas Tech on Saturday, which will be followed by a stretch of five-straight ranked opponents including No. 11 Iowa State, No. 8 Kansas and No. 19 Baylor. If there were ever a perfect time for the Longhorns to turn their season around and start to make some noise, it’s now with a losing streak behind them and some very winnable games upcoming. The eye test says it’s now or never for the once glorified Longhorns.