Something has to give when No. 6 Texas and Kansas State, teams with identical records and winning streaks, square off on Tuesday in Austin, Texas, in the second game of the 18-game Big 12 Conference gauntlet.
Both teams head into Tuesday’s contest after winning their league openers on Saturday. The Longhorns (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) came from behind and then outlasted Oklahoma 70-69 on the road while Kansas State (12-1, 1-0) had to go into overtime at home to beat then-No. 24 West Virginia 82-76.
Texas, playing its first true road game of the year, got 13 points each from Timmy Allen and Marcus Carr and 11 from Sir’Jabari Rice, who scored all of his points in the final 5:49 while going 7-for-7 at the free-throw line. Rice, Carr and Allen combined for 31 of Texas’ 39 points in the second half.
Dylan Disu returned to the lineup after missing a game with a knee injury and added 10 points.
Texas has won six straight games, the past five with Rodney Terry as acting coach after Chris Beard was suspended indefinitely without pay when he was arrested for felony domestic assault on Dec. 12.
“The thing that we’re trying to really work with our ballclub is to continue to just work the game and play with urgency,” Terry said. “Whether it’s the first four minutes or the last four minutes of the game, you got to work the game to its entirety.”
The Longhorns trailed by three points with just more than two minutes remaining when Rice’s pump-fake near the corner helped him draw a foul and earn three free throws. In the final minute, Carr hit a fadeaway hook to put the Longhorns up 64-62, and then Rice grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Oklahoma and canned two more free throws to make it a two-possession game.
“We have an older group that’s a great blend of guys that I know I trust a great deal, and I know my staff trusts a great deal,” Terry added. “We believe in those guys, those guys believe in themselves, and we are super excited for them to start conference with a win.”
The Wildcats continue to be one of the nation’s most surprising teams and are off to their best start since going 12-1 in the 2016-17 season. Kansas State outscored West Virginia 31-12 over the first 10 minutes of the second half, turning an 11-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead.
“Our guys settled down and adjusted to the speed and the physicality and then started ramping it up,” Kansas State first-year coach Jerome Tang said. “And so I was very proud of our composure and our togetherness.”
Markquis Nowell had seven of his game-high 23 points in overtime for the Wildcats. Keyontae Johnson added 18 points while Abayomi Iyiola hit for 14 and Nae’Qwan Tomlin had 11 points in the win, Kansas State’s sixth straight.
After surrendering the game-tying shot by West Virginia with 0.9 seconds to play in regulation, the Wildcats scored the first six points of overtime, and West Virginia never got closer than four the rest of the way.
“We’ve got some really tough kids and they are resilient and they work really, really hard,” Tang said. “And also they play with emotion, but they’re not emotional. I’m looking forward to the next thing we do.”
–Field Level Media