Anyone concerned about Kansas State’s ability to bounce back from consecutive losses last week, you can now rest easy. The Wildcats took the court tonight with the look of a team possessed. They were clearly motivated to impose their will on their opponent. The Longhorns, by contrast, got punched in the mouth and showed little interest in getting back up off the mat. Aside from brief Texas leads at 3-2 and 5-4, this game was all Wildcats, all the time as they sailed to an 83-57 victory.
Aside from playing on the road, things set up well for Texas early in the game. Rodney McGruder picked up three fouls in the first five minutes of the game and sat the rest of the half with only a pair of free throws to his credit. Will Spradling suffered a broken nose and was also out for an extended portion of the first half. Shane Southwell picked up a silly foul, his third, with 0.2 seconds in the half. It didn’t matter. The Cats outscored Texas 38-19 despite the fact they shot just 39.4% from the floor.
It’s no secret that the Longhorns struggle to score, and are in fact one of the worst shooting teams in the country. That was on full display early on as they were just 6-23 from the floor in the first half. They also turned the ball over a dozen times in the first half and 17 times overall in the game. Meanwhile the Wildcats committed just six turnovers in 40 minutes of play. Texas did shoot 13-23 in the second half but the game was out of hand and the Wildcats were able to easily push their lead from 19 at the half to 26 at the final buzzer. K-State stepped on their opponent’s throat tonight and they didn’t let up. That, perhaps more than anything else, was the most encouraging thing to take away from this win. The Texas Longhorns are not a very good team but that hasn’t stopped them from hanging around against other competition.
With McGruder on the bench, Bruce Weber got very productive bench minutes from Omari Lawrence who scored 12 points and added six rebounds in 19 minutes of action. All but two of those points came in the first half and all of his rebounds were on the offensive end of the court. Thomas Gipson also came off the bench to lead the team with 17 points on 7-10 shooting and contributed seven rebounds of his own in 21 minutes. Angel Rodriguez continued to struggle with his shot making just 3-12 for 11 points but he did dish out eight assists to a single turnover. Southwell continues to compile numbers under the radar. This time around he went for eight points, four assists, three steals and two rebounds. McGruder did make two shots in the second half but was otherwise quiet as his teammates took care of business. His seven points were his lowest output since December 15th.
The Longhorns didn’t have much to celebrate in the game, but sophomore forward Jaylen Bond did come off the bench to pull down eight rebounds and score 12 points in 21 minutes of play. Coming into the game he was averaging just 3.1 rpg and 1.6 ppg respectively. Fellow sophomore, and leading scorer, Sheldon McClellan led the team with 15 points though much of his contribution came on the back of an 8-10 night at the line. Like K-State’s Rodriguez he was just 3-12 shooting.
Texas (9-11, 1-6) needs to string some wins together and their schedule will accommodate in the next week. They will first host the last place TCU Horned Frogs (9-11, 0-7) on Saturday and then travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia (9-11, 2-5) on Monday. TCU has more acute scoring issues than do the Longhorns and haven’t lost by less than nine points in any of their seven conference losses.
The Wildcats (16-4, 5-2) will play their second game against the Sooners (14-5, 5-2) on Saturday. K-State won the first matchup by nine at home but this one will take place in Norman. After their tilt with Oklahoma they have a road game with Texas Tech next Tuesday before a three game stretch with Iowa State, Kansas and Baylor.