The time finally seemed to arrive. The inconsistencies were finally wiped away, rhythm was established on the offensive side of the ball and three consecutive conference wins looked to be in the works for the Texas Longhorns.
Texas commanded much of the first half against No. 18 Kansas State, securing a 39-31 lead with a little over 100 seconds before halftime. But minute by minute, the lead evaporated and wholly disintegrated by the 15-minute mark. The final result was a crushing seven-point defeat in Austin, the Longhorns’ first at home in exactly one month. How exactly did the Wildcats reverse all of Texas’ first half progress?
Zoning in on Texas
In the opening half, the Longhorns were more than prolific at driving to the hoop. Texas finished at the rim on the majority of scoring possessions, scoring 24 points in the paint before the break. Leading the charge was guard Kerwin Roach II. The tenured senior faced little resistance blazing past his matchup and earning high-percentage shots within several feet of the basket. Then, everything changed in the second half.
“I didn’t think we had good composure on the defensive end in the first half,” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said. “We wanted to fight them. Maybe we were a little too overanxious. They got us all spread out, they got in the paint, but we’re usually so good at being in the lane. Second half, we were much more compact. We changed a couple things.”
Weber elected to switch to a zone defense, a rare occurrence for the Wildcats. The zone defense proved pertinent to halting Texas’ paint presence, as clogging the lane provided a security blanket on drives at all times. Kansas State played the percentages, forcing Texas to resort to 3-pointers. The Longhorns finished 4-of-19 from beyond the arc, and no player sunk more than one triple throughout the night. Texas managed just eight points in the paint after halftime, and Roach was shut out with zero second half field goals.
“They definitely made us a shooting team — we just didn’t knock down the shots,” Roach said on Kansas State’s zone. “When you go zone, you’re supposed to protect the middle. That’s what zones are made for. You gotta make shots outside to get them out of the zone, or just penetrate in and kick it out for a shot or get a dunk down, but we didn’t get either.”
Barry Brown on the Rebound
It won’t be the most glamorous or memorable play from Tuesday night’s showdown, but it was the most meaningful. With 1:51 remaining and holding onto a 67-64 lead, Kansas State point guard Barry Brown Jr. bricked a 3-pointer from the corner.
However, Brown followed his own attempt and snagged the rebound within an instant, birthing a new 30 seconds of shot clock for the Wildcats. Kansas State capitalized on the free possession, extending a one-score lead to a daunting four-point advantage with under 90 seconds left.
“I thought that was going in. I think every shot’s going in,” Brown said. “I was kind of surprised by it. I just wanted to make the play. We needed that rebound to run some more time off the clock.”
Texas never saw another opportunity down three points or fewer. The Longhorns failed to score a single point in the final 2:17 of the game, snapping the team’s two-game win streak and three-game home streak to fall to .500 in conference play.
“It’s crunch time of conference play, coming off of two good games,” point guard Matt Coleman III said. “We played well, we just didn’t do enough. Didn’t get one more stop, didn’t get one extra possession for ourselves, so today was like a detail game, and they capitalized off our missed details.”