Coleman strives to sustain energy vs. Kansas State


Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A College GameDay appearance, a rare sellout crowd at the Frank Erwin Center, a dramatic comeback victory over a ranked opponent and a near court-storm from the students summarized a wild Saturday in Texas basketball.

The 79-74 upset over then-No. 12 Oklahoma could be labeled a turning point for the Longhorns’ season, but Texas must re-implement similar strategies to build on the win when Kansas State comes to town Wednesday night.

“We want to try to get the ball going downhill as much as we can,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “That’s what helped us down the stretch against Oklahoma. Kansas State as a defensive team is one of the best in the country at stealing the ball, so we’ve got to do a good job protecting
the basketball.”

The programs, each 5–5 in Big 12 play, have nearly identical resumes in 2017-18. Neither team has fulfilled expectations on the road, specifically in 30-plus-point defeats at West Virginia for each team. An 89-51 loss to the Mountaineers on Saturday marked the Wildcats’ latest game, and they will have to recover to beat a Texas team that has caught fire in Austin lately.

Texas (15–8) has rattled off five straight wins at the Erwin Center, including three upsets over AP Top 25 teams. The Longhorns’ home success
garnered the team 15 votes in the latest poll, inching closer to Texas’ first Top 25 appearance since March 2016.

During Texas’ last outing in Austin, viewers watched the budding of a potential superstar who should play an increased role for the Longhorns the remainder of the season.

Freshman point guard Matt Coleman, who has averaged just 8.6 points per game, tallied a career-high 22 points against Oklahoma. He shot efficiently from multiple spots on the floor and carried an intense energy with him all evening. During the Longhorns’ 10-point comeback in the second half, Coleman notably waved his arms to the sky in attempt to inject life into the crowd of 15,533.

“The crowd really gave us that extra umph, and I was just trying to use that to our advantage,” Coleman said. “On the other end, we were playing against Oklahoma and probably the national player of the year. You just feed off of those type of things. At the end of the day, we’re fighting, not just to win, but we’re fighting for
Andrew (Jones).”

Closing out games was a struggle for the Longhorns earlier in the season, as struggles from the free throw line cost Texas games against Duke, Oklahoma State and, most recently, Texas Tech. Just 72 hours after losing a heartbreaker in Lubbock last Wednesday, a seemingly rebranded version of Coleman spoiled any hope of a Sooners’ comeback on Saturday by nailing 4-of-4 shots from the line to clinch the moment of the year for Texas.

“It’s uncharacteristic of me to miss three straight free throws in a row,” Coleman said, reflecting on the Texas Tech loss, where he missed three in a row late in the game. “You still live to see another day. We just have to fight. My number was called again to make my free throws, and I did.”

Coleman’s Kansas State counterpart is point guard Barry Brown. After experiencing a heavy dose of Trae Young, Coleman now has to contribute in halting another prolific scorer. Brown is in the midst of a scoring slump, but the Kansas State junior is capable of dropping 30 on any given night.

“We need everybody on our team, and (Coleman) plays a crucial part,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “He’s the main ballhandler on our team, so without him, if he’s not in the right place, our whole team won’t be in the right place.”