Kansas State men’s basketball could not complete the season sweep of the Texas Longhorns, falling 69-66. The loss reaffirms Texas’ position in first place of the conference and drops K-State two games back of the lead.
From the game’s early minutes, it looked to be another Big 12 battle between the top of the conference. K-State did hold an early advantage with scoring from four starters and sixth-man guard Desi Sills.
The only starter without points to start the game, forward Keyontae Johnson, recorded two fouls just over a minute into the game. Johnson returned to the game and K-State’s offense continued to spread the scoring. All eight Wildcats who saw minutes scored in the first 10 minutes of the contest.
Johnson, however, was called for his third foul and the offense began to stall. K-State’s defensive play held down the Longhorns all half, keeping the lead.
“It’s tough when one of your best players picks up two fouls in the first couple seconds of the game,” head coach Jerome Tang said after the game. “We’re putting him in and out of the game and you really can’t get into a rhythm … he wasn’t able to help us rebounding, he wasn’t able to help us defensively.”
Both teams ended the half on field goals droughts of over four minutes, but K-State led 36-25. A lead that could’ve been larger with more minutes for Johnson, who scored 28 against Texas in the Austin.
“I did get in my head when I had the early fouls,” Johnson said after the game. “I didn’t want to be overly aggressive trying to rebound.”
Momentum immediately shifted in Texas’ favor to start the second half. K-State’s lead fell to just three points after a 12-4 Texas run.
After scoring 25 points in the first half, Texas had 26 in the first ten minutes of the second. Texas forward Christian Bishop was the driving force behind the Longhorn’s newfound offensive success. Bishop slammed home his 11th second half point to give Texas their largest lead of six.
Tang stated that K-State’s lack of physicality plagued their matchup against Bishop.
K-State kept fighting to take the momentum back under the ten-minute mark, but also had to fight the whistle. K-State guard Markquis Nowell received his fourth foul with four minutes to play. Johnson joined him with four at the two-minute mark. K-State only trailed by two but would need both of their star players down the final stretch.
Nowell made a jumper with exactly 60 seconds to play that gave the Wildcats the lead back. Bishop, however, had an answer on the ensuing possession. K-State couldn’t put together another basket and ultimately gave up the comeback.
Bishop finished with 14 points, all in the second half. Johnson, despite limited minutes, led the Wildcats scoring with 16 points.
“He’s our go-to player. He changes a lot when he gets two or three quick fouls, Nowell said about Johnson after the game. “Those two quick ones could change the whole narrative of a half or the game.”
K-State will look to bounce back at home against No. 15 TCU at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7.