Fourth-ranked Texas will try to get back on the winning track when it hosts COVID-depleted and reeling Kansas State on Saturday in a Big 12 clash in Austin, Texas.
The Longhorns (10-2, 4-1 Big 12) look to rebound after a 79-77 loss at home Wednesday to No. 15 Texas Tech on a bucket by the Red Raiders’ Mac McClung in the final seconds. Kansas State (5-8, 1-4) heads to Austin after it was forced to postpone its Wednesday game at home against Iowa State because of the Wildcats’ inability to meet required COVID-19 player thresholds.
Andrew Jones led Texas with 20 points, 18 of them in the first half, in the loss to Texas Tech. Jericho Sims scored a season-high 16, with Courtney Ramey adding 15 points and Matt Coleman III hitting for 13 in the setback, which snapped the Longhorns’ six-game win streak.
“Man, it hurts. It hurts,” Coleman said after the loss. “We’ve just been playing well, been connected. Winning’s fun. This leaves a poor taste in everyone’s mouth. The feeling is something we don’t want to have.”
Texas lost for the first time in five games this year in contests decided by three points or less and dropped to 3-2 this season against ranked opponents. The Longhorns, which scored a season-best 48 points in the first half, led for nearly 37 minutes and by as much as 12 points late in the first half before surrendering the game’s final six points.
All those facts will be wearing on Texas leading to Saturday’s game as it wonders how the desired outcome against Texas Tech got away.
“We really competed at a high level in the first half, and our pace was terrific,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said after the loss. “We got bogged down in the second half — and Texas Tech did a good job hurting us off our turnovers. You gotta make more free throws than we made and take care of the ball better.”
Kansas State’s most recent outing was a 70-54 defeat at home to Oklahoma State on Jan. 9. The Wildcats suited up the minimum number of eight players in that game — just six of whom are on scholarship — as injuries and unavailability continued to mount.
The Wildcats are 0-3 at home to start league play for the first time since 1996-97 and it won’t get any easier against the Longhorns.
“Obviously, we had a tough challenge,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said after the loss to Oklahoma State. “With six scholarship guys available, it makes it tough on you. And then the worst thing that could happen, Davion (Bradford) getting in foul trouble, made it worse.”
The Wildcats played without their starting point guard Nijel Pack, who had a season-best 17 points at Texas Tech on Jan. 5, while they continued to be without season-opening game starters Kaosi Ezeagu and Montavious Murphy, each of whom missed their ninth games.
Kansas State, with its depleted player availability, was outscored 33-6 by Oklahoma State’s bench players. The Wildcats’ 54 points were a season low. Mike McGuirl scored 15 points to lead Kansas State in the loss and DaJuan Gordon added 14.
“Our kids played hard, they played their hearts out,” Weber said. “With playing this game, I just hope we can keep their spirit up. I told them after the game that I’m proud of them.”
–Field Level Media