Too Close For Comfort: Texas 65, KSU 64

Senior G Kenton Paulino calmly sank four foul shots in the final 16 seconds as No. 7 Texas slipped past upset-minded Kansas State, 65-64, in Manhattan Wednesday. The close call sets up Saturday's showdown against Kansas in Austin, a contest that will likely determine the Big 12 Conference title.

But first, there was this little matter of getting past Kansas State. The Horns had struggled to a 1-5 record in Bramlage Coliseum, where the Wildcats were 13-2 on the season, prior to Wednesday's tip. The Horns twice built 10-point leads during the contest but seemed determined to give it away down the stretch. Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker missed the front end of one-and-ones during the final 41 seconds as the Horns clung to a 61-60 lead. But Paulino was clutch when it mattered most. The senior was just 1-of-7 from the floor but his four FTs during the final 16.2 seconds ensured that Texas would raise its record to 23-4 and, at 11-2 in league play, remain tied for first-place with Kansas.

The close-but-no-cigar Wildcats fell to 14-10, 5-8 in Big 12 action, and have now dropped six conference losses by a combined 14 points. It was Texas' first win at Kansas State since its 99-70 road win in 2000. Wildcat leading scorer Cartier Martin (18.7 ppg) was sidelined for much of the contest with foul trouble and injured point guard Clent Stewart missed the game entirely. But upstart KSU hung tough by getting 23 points from its bench, by attacking the middle of Texas' 2-3 zone, and by playing virtually even on the boards (a 38-36 rebounding edge for the Horns).

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Horns with 16 points (7-of-10 FG), adding eight rebounds and two blocked shots to his line. Tucker notched a double-double with 14 points (7-of-14 FG) and 12 boards. Wildcat backup G Lance Harris led all scorers with 18 points (6-of-16 FG).

The Horns were 24-of-54 from the field (44 percent), including 5-of-17 from three-point range (29 percent). Texas was 12-of-16 from the charity stripe (75 percent), thanks to Paulino who made all eight of his foul shots.

Texas opened with a 14-1 run against KSU's man defense, including consecutive treys from Daniel Gibson and Brad Buckman, to jump to a 14-4 lead. The Wildcats missed eight straight FGs during that stretch while leading scorer Cartier Martin was whistled for his third foul just 4:25 into the ballgame. The home team rallied to trim the Longhorn lead, 16-12, before a pair of Tucker jumpers pushed the margin back to double digits, 22-12.

KSU answered with a 7-2 swing as Tucker and Buckman -- with two fouls apiece -- grabbed some bench time. Gibson's trey gave Texas a 32-23 advantage but a 7-0 run pulled KSU within a bucket, 32-30. Gibson drained his third trey of the half just before Tucker's pull-up jumper extended the Texas lead, 39-30. Aldridge's putback gave Texas a 42-36 halftime lead. But the Wildcats were still in this one thanks to 17 bench points during the first 20 minutes of play.

A pair of Aldridge FGs, bracketing Tucker's driving layup, gave Texas a 48-38 cushion. Martin picked up his fourth personal with 13:03 remaining, sending Paulino to the charity stripe. His FTs made it a 53-45 ballgame. But for the second time, the Wildcats would rally with their leading scorer on the bench.

It was a 53-50 contest when Martin checked back in with 9:10 left. A.J. Abrams bucket made it 55-50, with little more than 8:30 on the game clock, representing the only points from the Texas bench all night. Harris' FG trimmed the Texas lead, 57-56, with 6:03 remaining. Gibson was 0-for-7 from the field during the second period before ending the drought with a layup. Tucker followed with a jump hook to make it 61-56, but David Hoskins followed his foul shots with a bucket to make it a 61-60 nailbiter.

Tucker was guilty of a turnover, and then an offensive foul at the one-minute mark, to give KSU a chance. Buckman responded with a HUGE blocked shot, but Gibson would miss the front end of a one-and-one. Tucker would be guilty of the same before Paulino stepped to the line with 16.2 remaining, spotting Texas a 63-60 margin. Hoskins sank a freebie before intentionally missing the back-end of his FTs. Paulino was fouled on the inbounds pass and extended his perfect outing from the charity stripe. Hoskins sank a meaningless three-pointer at the buzzer,

The Horns held KSU to 22-of-62 from the floor (35 percent), including 4-of-18 from three-point range (22 percent). The Wildcats were 16-of-21 from the foul line (76 percent).

ESPN's College GameDay will be broadcast from the UT campus beginning at 10 a.m. CST Saturday. The network will televise the Texas-Kansas game at 8 p.m.

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