Texas Advances to Face Kansas State

The Texas Longhorns erased any doubt that they would make the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday with a 67-56 win over Colorado in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament behind a career-high 26 points from Dexter Pittman. On Thursday, the Longhorns will take on the Kansas State Wildcats in a #4 vs. #5 game in Oklahoma City.

The Texas Longhorns took care of business on Wednesday beating Colorado 67-65 behind a powerful performance by Dexter Pittman. The 6-10, 295-pound junior scored a career-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and two assists dominating from start to finish.

Damion James, who scored 11 points and leaped high to pull down 11 rebounds joined Pittman in the double double party.

On Thursday at 2pm at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, the Longhorns (21-10, 10-7) will have the chance to avenge an earlier season loss in Austin against the Kansas State Wildcats.

In the first meeting, an 85-81 overtime win January 31, Kansas State (21-10, 9-7) received a Big 12 record 44 points from junior guard Denis Clemente. The 6-1 speedy guard hit all six of his three pointers as well as 12 of 12 from the free throw line in destroying the Longhorns on their home court.

The Wildcats hit 10 of 15 three pointers as a team in the first meeting.

In Kansas State, the Longhorns will be up against one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. Kansas State features five players that are capable rebounders, and Ron Anderson off the bench who can be a very effective rebounder in spurts.

In the first meeting, the Longhorns were still playing James on the wing. Tomorrow, Kansas State will get a different look from Texas. James' ability to put the ball on the floor against Kansas State big man Darren Kent will be key for Texas offensively.

Kansas State leads the all-time series 10-8.

Thursday's tip is set for 2pm central time and will be televised by the Big 12 Network.

A Check of the NCAA Resume

Texas entered Wednesday with an RPI of 35 and strength of schedule of 26. The Longhorns are 6-6 vs. Top 50 RPI opponents.

The strength of schedule will take a hit just by playing Colorado and Kansas State tomorrow.

The Longhorns are now playing for "Big Dance" seeding. Texas likely sits on the 8/9 seeding line and must win Thursday to move up to that all-important seven line.

Kansas State must win on Thursday to have a shot to go dancing. With an RPI of 75, strength of schedule sitting at 98, and non-conference losses to Iowa and at Oregon, the Wildcats are on the outside looking in.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 470-237, including 268-103 at Texas. Barnes is 14-10 in Big 12 Tournament.

Frank Martin is in his second season at Kansas State. Martin has a career record of 42-22, including 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 44.0% from the field, 31.7% from three and 67.3% from the free throw line.

The Wildcats convert 43.9% overall, 36.1% from three point range and 65.1% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender 40.9% shooting and own a +5.2 rebound advantage.

Kansas State gives up 41.5% defensively, but check in with a +6.9 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 12.4 turnovers per game, while St. Joe's is turning the ball over 14.0 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (3.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (16.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists)

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks)

Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (10.9 points, 6.5 rebounds), 6-2 junior Harrison Smith (2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds), 6-11 senior Connor Atchley (5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds).

The Wildcat Starters

G Denis Clemente 6-1 Jr. (15.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists)

G Jacob Pullen 6-0 So. (13.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals)

F Dominique Sutton 6-5 So. (7.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals)

F Darren Kent 6-11 Sr. (8.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists)

C Luis Colon 6-10 Jr. (4.7 points and 5.0 rebounds)

Key reserves are 6-2 sophomore Fred Brown (8.5 points and 1.4 assists), 6-8 sophomore Ron Anderson (5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds) and 6-7 freshman Jamar Samuels (8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds).

What to Watch For

The Longhorns will face the tough task of playing on back-to-back days while Kansas State is well rested with the first round bye.

Texas first has to understand how poorly Kansas State shoots free throws. Luis Colon shoots just 46%, Fred Brown 58.8%, Jamar Samuels 58.7% and Ron Anderson 49%. That means the Longhorns have to be aware of who they are defending and force them to earn points on the free throw line. If Texas surrenders point blank scores to any of those guys, it's a bad play.

Chances are Clemente won't be as on fire as the first meeting, but Texas has to have their big men help on the double and staggered screens this time around. Kansas State does a very good job of screening to get Clemente space on the catch and it's up to the Texas big men to realize the set and help to disrupt timing. The Kansas State big men, with the exception of Kent, aren't skilled offensive players.

The Longhorn big men have to take some chances unless Clemente proves to be cold shooting the ball early on.

Pullen shoots 33% from the three and Texas has to close out under control. Texas doesn't want Pullen passing on a contested jumper to put the ball on the floor and get to the free throw line. He has a compact, powerful body and does a good job of drawing contact. The Longhorn big men need their fouls to use on the Kansas State bigs tomorrow.

Texas has to block out Ron Anderson and Jamar Samuels when they are in the game. Both of the Kansas State forwards are talented offensive rebounders and the Longhorns must put a body on them. Anderson has to be blocked out a split second longer as he is tough to keep on ones back. He strong and quick to the traffic rebound.

Damion James has to challenge Kent on the defensive end. James has a quickness and athletic advantage, but has to ball fake and then drive at and by Kent. The Wildcats could choose to let James catch and shoot thus keeping him off the offensive glass.

Kansas State is a team that has the ability to take away the Longhorn's strength, offensive rebounding. Should Texas send three to the offensive glass, they run the risk of giving up some transition chances to Kansas State. The risk has to be taken, as Texas just isn't a team that can win on single possessions in the half court. There must be second chance scoring opportunities and double digit chances to be effective.

Balbay needs to push the ball. While Kansas State is a quality rebounding team, their big men (Colon, Anderson and Kent) don't change ends quickly. Texas has to create some transition scoring chances.

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