First Time Out
Seldom do we get second chances in life, right?
But that's exactly what happened when Demarcus Holland called timeout after Isaiah Taylor couldn't find a wide open Jonathan Holmes at the basket. Holland's heads up play — which certainly looked strange and panicked live — earned the Longhorns another chance, one they took advantage of. Holmes, this time cutting out rather than in, got off a fadeaway three-pointer that swished at the buzzer, giving the Longhorns a 67-64 win.
It was the start of a mini-skid for the Wildcats, who entered that game against Texas 4-1 in conference play. Now, the Wildcats (15-7, 5-4 Big 12) have lost three of their last four, dropping games to Iowa State and West Virginia, while beating Texas Tech in Manhattan.
The Wildcats go as far as their defense will take them. They're 13th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 131st in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, and in conference play, their offense has been the eighth-worst out of 10 Big 12 teams.
Still, this should be a tough one for the Longhorns to pull out. Kansas State is one of the few teams that matches Texas's intensity and scrap, and of the Wildcats' seven losses, only one — a two-point defeat in the season-opener — has come at home in Manhattan.
On Kansas State
It would help the Longhorns a bunch if they could get a handle on wide-bodied center Thomas Gipson. Listed at 6-foot-7, and probably only 6-6, Gipson nonetheless has been able to carve out an offensive game thanks to his width and long wingspan. While he wasn't able to affect the Longhorns defensively, or really on the boards, he did score 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting. The rest of the team made just 16-of-43 shots, including a 4-for-16 mark from three.
That's actually not that uncommon, regarding the Wildcats' distance shooting issues, with Kansas State shooting 31.4 percent from deep (294th nationally) on the year.
But Gipson's Big 12-best 58 percent field goal percentage in Big 12 play has really helped a lineup that has been less than efficient. Talented freshman guard Marcus Foster (6-2 200) is a bit more of a volume scorer right now, but the Wildcats need somebody like that in that they're somewhat short on other willing scoring options.
Foster is joined in the backcourt by savvy veteran Will Spradling (6-2 185), who is an efficient offensive player in terms of avoiding turnovers. In the frontcourt, Kansas State has Shane Southwell (6-7 215) and Wesley Iwundu (6-7 195) helping to add length, if not bulk. Southwell has some offensive skill, though his three-point shooting percentages have plummeted from 43.6 percent a year ago to 28.7 percent this year. Iwundu is a freshman who doesn't do a ton outstanding, though he is excellent at drawing fouls from his power forward spot.
From a longer-term perspective, keep an eye on backup point guard Jevon Thomas (6-0 180), another freshman who has potential as a table-setter, even if he's not shooting well this year. D.J. Johnson (6-9 250) is the only rotational player over 6-7. Not surprisingly, he's one of the Wildcats' best rebounders by rate.
The Wildcats play with a lot of grind and hustle. Despite their lack of size, they're a pretty good offensive rebounding team. And while they don't force a ton of turnovers, they do a nice job of forcing challenged shots and not committing fouls.
How Can Texas Win?
Neither team played especially well in the matchup in Austin, with Texas getting 23 points from Javan Felix — back for this game after missing the TCU game with a concussion — and a combined 26 points and 16 rebounds from Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes. Texas was excellent on the offensive boards, though the Longhorns also allowed Kansas State to grab a number of offensive boards itself.
The Longhorns have the size to take advantage of an undersized Kansas State group. And Isaiah Taylor is more than capable of having a better game than his 2-for-9, four-point performance that he had last time.
The keys are simple: pound the offensive glass to take advantage of Kansas State's lack of height down low. Protect your own offensive glass. On offense, exploit either Texas's size advantage down low or quickness advantage up top.
All of that is easier said than done. But if Texas can pull it off, the Longhorns would move to 8-2 in the Big 12 and separate themselves further from a solid team still in conference contention.