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No. 14 Texas spends a half shooting jumpers, then gets serious with outmanned Kansas State

Beard: ‘The poise to come back and play well in the second half, I thought it was a good win for us against a quality team’

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Just about everyone inside the Texas men’s basketball program thought Tuesday’s game at Kansas State would get postponed.

COVID-19 is doing its best to disrupt yet another college basketball season. But the rules say if a team has at least six healthy players and one coach, you play. Just hope it’s the right six.

Kansas State doctors cleared seven scholarship players and a walk-on for Tuesday’s game at Bramlage Coliseum. Coach Bruce Weber and his top assistant were sidelined, too.

The so-called “Octagon of Doom” felt more like an odd-shaped square of despair. 

But don’t put any asterisk next to Texas’ 70-57 win. The Wildcats sure had the right eight players and gave the 14th-ranked Longhorns a remarkable tussle. Four Horns finished in double figures and Timmy Allen had a career-high 14 rebounds as Texas (12-2, 2-0 Big 12) notched a legitimate road win.

Texas forward Timmy Allen dunks over Kansas State guard Mark Smith during Tuesday night's Longhorns win in Manhattan, Kan. The Wildcats had only seven scholarship players because of COVID-19 protocols.

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“I don’t really care about the asterisk anyway,” Texas coach Chris Beard said afterward. “When I’m old and floating down the Frio River in Concan, I’m not going to remember the asterisk at all. But I'll remember coming down here with these guys. 

“And on a night where the first half got away from us, the poise to come back and play well in the second half, I thought it was a good win for us against a quality team,” he added. “We wish K-State the best.”

The Horns normally fly in the day before road games. But they were stuck in a holding pattern back in Austin on Monday while K-State (8-5, 0-2) did more testing. On Tuesday morning, the Horns flew up to Manhattan, arrived about mid-morning, had a quick shoot-around and got off their feet for awhile at the hotel, where they were supposed to sleep Monday night.

“Hey man, whatever works,” Allen said. “I just want the W.”

The only Longhorn who didn’t make the trip was senior guard Andrew Jones, who stayed home due to COVID-19 protocols. 

Knowing they were outmanned, the Wildcats came out swinging. Nijel Pack’s baseline jumper gave K-State an early 14-7 lead. Instead of going right at the opposition, Texas guards sat on the perimeter and settled for jump shots.

A lot of ’em.

Like, a whole bunch.

Texas took 17 3-point shots in the first half and made only five. Marcus Carr hit three, and Courtney Ramey hit one that gave Texas its first lead at 29-27. But K-State finished the half with an 8-0 blitz and had a six-point lead at the break.

Texas forward Christian Bishop and Kansas State guard Mike McGuirl battle for a rebound during the first half Tuesday night in Manhattan, Kan. Bishop had several family members in attendance that made the trip from nearby Missouri. The Longhorns won 70-57.

Texas went the entire first half without attempting a single free throw. Again, this happened against a team with only seven scholarship players. 

The second half was totally different. It started when Allen found Christian Bishop for a reverse layup. Dylan Disu hit a baseline fadeaway and then a 12-footer. Carr drove inside and scored on a wild layup that got no call.

Then with 13:55 remaining, the dam broke. K-State’s Mike McGuirl fouled Carr and sent the Texas guard to the line. Carr’s free throws were the first of the night for the Horns. 

“We’ve been working hard on it as a team to get aggressive and try to get to the free-throw line more,” Beard said, “and I thought in the second half when we needed it most we did that.”

On the next K-State possession, Mark Smith went hard to the rim and got turned away by Disu. It may not have counted as an official block, but it’ll darn sure make the highlight reel. 

Texas forward Dylan Disu blocks a shot by Kansas State forward Ismael Massoud during the second half Tuesday night. The Longhorns won 70-57.

Then, Carr got fouled again and went to the line. Ramey followed with back-to-back 3-pointers and Texas was cooking with a 47-37 lead. The whole game suddenly turned UT’s way all because they played an inside-out game.

“I think when we get it inside, it creates some momentum for us,” Allen said. “And then when we get inside, they have to react to that and we get it inside-out for some threes. 

“Marcus was hitting. Ramey was hitting, as usual. That’s just big for us,” Allen added. “You know, we’re not the biggest team, but we have a lot of skilled guys who can get busy down there in the paint. So, I think playing inside out is big for our team.”

Carr finished with a team-high 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. In Texas basketball history, Reggie Freeman is still the only player to log a triple-double. Maybe that changes sometime in the next two months. 

Allen had 17 points, and as Beard pointed out, “14 rebounds by Timmy, a career high.” Allen’s previous high was 13 boards against USC last season while he played at Utah.

Ramey finished with 14 points, another strong performance hot on the heels of last Saturday’s show against West Virginia. Disu added 10 more, and Bishop had five rebounds playing in front of family and friends who came over from Missouri.

Tre Mitchell finished with two points in 10 minutes, but Beard went out of his way to spotlight the 6-foot-9 forward. “I want to recognize Tre and what kind of teammate and man and veteran he was on that bench,” Beard said. “He was dialed in. So look for next game for us to establish Tre and try to get him on track.”

Texas forward Timmy Allen puts up a shot during the first half of Tuesday night's 70-57 win over Kansas State. The Longhorns are 2-0 to start Big 12 play.

Pack finished with a team-high 21 points for K-State. He hit three of the team’s four 3-pointers. K-State was 4-for-18 overall from long range. Texas’ second half defense was sensational; K-State shot just 22.2% after the break. At one point, K-State committed three fouls in a span of 13 seconds. Texas’ six turnovers was also a season low.

COVID-19 has simply turned this K-State program upside down.

“Every day is a new adventure,” Weber told reporters on Monday. “Any symptom, whatever, we have to get our guys tested.”

This may be how it goes for the rest of the season — teams unsure if games will be played on schedule or not. “I’ve just got enough to worry about my job and our team,” Beard said. “You know, we don’t make the rules, we play by them.”

Thus, no asterisk required. None whatsoever. 

“Certainly, there are both sides of the coin on things like this,” Beard said. “But I thought that Kansas State played great tonight. A lot of courage. A couple men down. We wish coach Weber the best.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.