Momentum can be a fleeting thing in college athletics. Capitalizing it when you have it becomes paramount, while teams on the opposite side can find themselves buried beneath an avalanche of consecutive points if they aren't careful.
Just before halftime, momentum was on Texas's side. When Javan Felix knocked down a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left, it capped a 15-6 run that left the Longhorns down just 35-32 to the visiting Wildcats. Not only did Texas nearly erase a one-time, 12-point disadvantage, but Kansas State was left sprawling with foul trouble — of the 10 Wildcats to play in the first half, six had two fouls or more.
But Felix made a classic "young player" mistake, fouling Angel Rodriguez in the backcourt with the Longhorns trying to apply some pressure. Rodriguez stepped to the line and made both free throws. Then, Myck Kabongo tried to create something on Texas's final possession, only to turn the ball over. Omari Lawrence threw the ball ahead to Shane Southwell, who hit a flying three-pointer as time expired.
Just like that, a three-point Wildcat lead turned into an eight-point lead, and Kansas State had momentum of its own heading into the locker room.
"It was big," said freshman forward Ioannis Papapetrou. "Coach [Rick] Barnes talked about it after the game in the locker room. You know, [those are] the kind of plays that shifts the momentum of the game, and then changes the momentum.
"Instead of being a one-possession game at halftime, it ended up being a three- or four-possession game. It just gave them momentum at that moment."
Texas never truly earned that momentum back.
After DeMarcus Holland scored to take the lead down to six, Jordan Henriquez made a jumper of his own. Then, after Jonathan Holmes missed a jump shot, Rodriguez got the ball to Rodney McGruder for a layup. Rodriguez then stole the ball from Holland and laid the ball in himself, upping the lead to 12 and forcing Texas to call timeout.
That was as close as the Longhorns got the rest of the way. Kansas State pushed the lead to 19 points, and every time Texas cut it down to 12 or so, the Wildcats would score a bucket or two to add more room.
"The thing that bothers me is the effort, from the very beginning," Barnes said. "I don't understand, as much as we emphasize it, how our post guys didn't do what they had to do.
"There isn't one guy on this team this year that hasn't had a chance," Barnes added.
If Barnes had a big gripe, it had to be on the defensive end. The Longhorns entered the game as one of the nation's best field goal percentage defenses, and as the No. 1 three-point percentage defense in the country. But the Wildcats didn't have any problems scoring from anywhere, shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and 90.9 percent from the free throw line. That included a blistering 59.1 percent performance from the field in the second half, effectively squashing any comeback attempt the Longhorns might have had.
The Wildcats balanced their scoring nicely, with four players scoring in double figures, paced by McGruder with 20. Rodriguez had 16 points and six assists, while Southwell chipped in 11 points and another six assists. Overall, the Wildcats had assists on 19 of their 26 buckets.
Thomas Gipson had 10 points off the bench in 18 minutes.
Kabongo missed the first meeting, a too-easy 83-57 Kansas State win in Manhattan. This go-round, he played the unlikely role of top scorer, scoring a career-high 24 points to go with six rebounds and two assists.
"If I were Myck, I would be upset," Barnes said. "He came back playing as hard as he can."
Coming off a one-minute outing in the Longhorns' last game, Sheldon McClellan also had one of his better performances, getting to the rim aggressively and scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shots. This time, he played 28 minutes, aided in part by fellow wing Julien Lewis suffering an eye injury in the first half and not returning.
"They're an experienced team," Barnes said of Kansas State. "And they're hard enough to deal with without giving them some of the things we were giving them."
With the win, the Wildcats (22-5, 11-3) preserved a share of the Big 12 lead with Kansas, though the Jayhawks swept the Wildcats in both games. Texas (12-15, 4-10)hosts rival Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Sooners won their first meeting of the season in Norman.