Kansas State Falls Short Against Texas, Winless in Conference Play

Kansas State Wildcats guard Mike McGuirl (00) and guard Nijel Pack (24) looks to the bench. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas State Wildcats guard Mike McGuirl (00) and guard Nijel Pack (24) looks to the bench. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Kansas State Wildcats men’s basketball team lost 70-57 to the Texas Longhorns in their Jan. 4 conference home opener.

The Kansas State Wildcats came up short against the Texas Longhorns in Bramlage Coliseum, 70-57. After entering Big 12 conference play 8-3, the Wildcats are now 8-5 after losses to the Oklahoma Sooners and Longhorns.

Kansas State once again had personnel out due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including head coach Bruce Weber. Former Wildcat player Shane Southwell stepped in as acting head coach, leading the undermanned Wildcats. According to Kansas State, the Wildcats were without sophomore Davion Bradford, sophomore Jordan Brooks, freshman Maximus Edwards, junior Kaosi Ezeagu, sophomore Trey Harris, freshman Logan Landers and junior Markquis Nowell due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“We were short handed but we fought hard,” Southwell said. “But we don’t accept any moral victories. We told the guys in the locker room we don’t accept moral victories. Next step is to get better, obviously we’re growing but we’re gonna stay connected. And we’ve got a strong team with good moral in that locker room.”

The Wildcats opened the game with an uncharacteristic scoring run, taking a 14-7 lead early in the first half. Texas then slowly closed on that deficit, courtesy of scoring from seniors Marcus Carr and Courtney Ramey. An 8-0 scoring run saw the Longhorns take a 29-27 lead late in the first, but Kansas State answered with one of their own. The Wildcats ended the first half with a 35-29 lead, behind 15 points from sophomore guard Nijel Pack.

However, any hope of an upset would be quickly stifled by the Texas defense. The Longhorns opened the second half with an 18-2 scoring run, and the Wildcats could not recover. Kansas State closed the deficit to six points on multiple occasions, but Texas put the final touch with seven points to close out the game. The Texas defense entered the game holding their opponents to 51.9 points per game, and suffocated the Kansas State offense in the second half. The Longhorns held the Wildcats to just 22 points on 22.2% shooting from the field including 0-of-9 from three-point range.

“The first half we came in with that juice and energy,” Pack said. “We were locked in on defense and being in our gaps. It flowed our way. In the second half, we made some mental mistakes. It could’ve been from fatigue. It’s something we’ve learned. Fatigue can mess with your mentality overall, but you have to be better. We had a great first half. We had 20 more minutes to finish the game. We didn’t. We gotta work on that and be better next time.”

The loss marks the first time Kansas State has lost this season after leading at half. The Wildcats had won their previous eight such games.

Pack played more than 37 minutes, scoring 21 points and grabbing five rebounds. This was his fourth career 20-plus point game, and the eighth game Pack has scored more than 15 points this season.

Sophomore guard Selton Miguel flirted with a double-double, scoring 13 points and recording a game-high eight rebounds, while fellow sophomore forward Ish Massoud added 9 points.

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