Longhorns Cage Wildcats

Kansas State coach Frank Martin went to congratulate Texas coach Rick Barnes on the Longhorns' 75-64 come-from-behind victory over the Wildcats Saturday.

Then Martin, who said he's been a big Barnes fan since he was a young high school coach, gave the Texas head a compliment.

"I told Rick: 'That is Rick Barnes basketball. That is the basketball I grew up watching your kids play,'" Martin said. "I cannot compliment them enough. They came out in the second half, and they punched us in the mouth, again and again. They got us on the ropes and we never punched back."

Barnes smiled when asked about the comment.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and I sat there in the second half and enjoyed it," Barnes said. "I love teams that get after people on the defensive end. I love teams that attack on the offensive end. They are in a constant attack mode, and that is what we have told our team since they have been here."

It's certainly difficult to find too many issues with that second half, one that saw Texas rebound from a 15-point deficit, shoot 68.8 percent and get to the free-throw line 28 times, all while holding Kansas State to 32.3 percent shooting and keeping the Wildcats off the line at all.

"We shot a great percentage in the second half," said J'Covan Brown. "We were down 13 so everyone had to be aggressive and take open shots. Our 'bigs' were ready to do what they do — block shots. When they shoot the ball, we wanted to be the first ones to box out and not let them hit us. And that's what we did."

All told, after Kansas State took a 42-27 lead with 19:31 left, Texas went on a 48-22 run to end the game, including a 16-2 burst that brought the Longhorns to within one a little more than six minutes later. Texas didn't take the lead until the 8:20 mark, when Myck Kabongo took the outlet pass, jetted up the court and left the ball off for Brown, who swished the transition three for a 56-54 advantage. Texas never trailed again, and quickly pushed the lead up into the double-digit range.

It was a tale of two halves for the Longhorns, who trailed 40-27 at halftime after shooting just 28 percent. The Longhorns actually were tied at 23 in a back-and-forth game with 7:34 left in the first half, but failed to make another field goal the rest of the stanza. Meanwhile. the Wildcats went on a 17-4 run to stretch the contest out.

Brown led all scorers with 23 points, and he added four steals. Alexis Wangmene had his first career double-double, putting in 15 points — thanks to 9-of-12 shooting from the free throw line — and 13 rebounds. Kabongo played just 23 minutes with foul trouble, but scored 13 and had three assists. Sheldon McClellan scored 11 points and grabbed seven boards.

As a team, Texas enjoyed a monster advantage from the free throw line, shooting 48 free throws to 12. Barnes said the Longhorns were able to adjust to a tightly called game, frequently driving into contact and drawing fouls.

The officials said in the beginning of the game that they were going to blow the whistle," Barnes said.

Those whistles largely went against the visiting Wildcats, who didn't shoot a single free throw in the game's final 27 minutes. But Martin — fresh off complaining about a 26-11 free throw deficit in the Wildcats' loss to Iowa State — declined to talk about it after the game.

"I didn't officiate," Martin said. "You'd have to ask them."

As for the Longhorns, Martin said: "They Bogarted us in every aspect of the game".

Angel Rodriguez led the Wildcats with 15 points. Rodney McGruder, who exploded for 32 points when the two teams met in Manhattan, a four-point Wildcat win, was held to a more manageable 11 point and eight rebounds. Will Spradling and Adrian Diaz also had 11 potions apiece.

The victory was a huge one for the Longhorns' NCAA chances. At 16-9 and 6-6 in Big 12 play, Texas now must take four of its final six conference games to end the year with 20 regular season wins and a winning record (10-8) in conference. The Longhorns still could have achieved that even with the loss, but the margin for error would have been razor thin with upcoming matchups against rival Oklahoma (twice), Oklahoma State and Kansas on the road and Baylor at home.

The Wildcats meanwhile, might have a similar record at 17-7 and 6-6 in league, but have a more difficult closing stretch, facing a four-game murderer's row of the Big 12's top four teams in Kansas (on Monday), at Baylor, at Missouri and Iowa State.

Texas will travel to Norman on Tuesday to take on Oklahoma at 7 p.m. The two teams will play their return game at the end of the month.

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