No. 10 Texas (19-4, 8-2) rallied from 14 points down at one point to exact some level of revenge for its 116-103 loss at home to Kansas State last month.
No. 7 Kansas State (18-6, 6-4 in Big 12) has hit its first real valley this season, having lost three of its last four games. Of course, all three losses for the Wildcats have been to Top 15 teams. But this was the first at home.
How Texas Won
By weathering a first half that saw it fall behind by as many as 14 points and relying on its bench. Texas was down, 36-25, at the break and when the second half started the offense went to work, as the Longhorns outscored the Wildcats 16-5 in the first six minutes of the game to make it a contest.
The bench’s role was embodied by forward Christian Bishop and guard Sir’Jabari Rice, the latter of which is making a play for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Rice was coming off a big game against Baylor on Monday, and while he wasn’t as hot from the 3-point line as he was on Monday, he did end up with a double-double — 14 points and 10 rebounds.
As for Bishop, he had 14 points and six rebounds, and it was his layup with 39 seconds left that put Texas in the league for good.
Texas needed its bench because its starters played solid but not spectacularly. Both Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr had 10 points each, as did forward Timmy Allen. The Longhorns only shot 25 percent from the 3-point line and they persevered in a sloppy game, as they had 17 turnovers and Kansas State had 19.
How Kansas State Lost
You have to be able to close out games at home. When you’re up 14 points, you know in this conference your opponent will make a run. Texas did just that and Kansas State, ultimately, wasn’t able to hold Texas off.
Keyontae Johnson had to play with foul trouble for a good portion of the game, but he still ended up with a team-high 16 points. But you have to give Texas — and the foul trouble — credit for keeping Johnson off the glass. He had just three rebounds. That’s a big deal for K-State. He averages nearly eight rebounds per game and saw his streak of four straight double-doubles snapped.
Guard Markquis Nowell had 10 points but he also had six turnovers against three assists, which is an assist-to-turnover ratio no point guard wants. Desi Sills offered 11 points off the bench.
By game’s end the Wildcats had no discernable advantage over the Longhorns. And after Bishop made that go-ahead layup, Bishop blocked Nowell’s layup attempt, and then Nowell had his final turnover of the game, which led Sills to foul Rice with nine seconds left. Rice made both and K-State’s Ismael Massoud missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left to tie the game.
So that was that. A game that Kansas State had every chance to win and didn’t.
Texas at the Top
The Longhorns were already at the top of the Big 12 standings going into Saturday’s game. Kansas State was playing for a chance to force another tie. That would have helped Iowa State, which beat Kansas on Saturday.
No such help. Texas now has a one-game lead on Iowa State and a two-game lead on Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU going into next week.
The race in this conference is as close as I’ve ever seen it. And there’s just eight games left to figure out the seeds before Kansas City.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard