NCAA Tournament teams don’t lose games like this. Not in February. Not when every game starts to take on increased importance.
Coming off a thrilling upset win over Oklahoma, Texas turned in a clunker on Wednesday against Kansas State. At home, no less.
The Longhorns continued their zigzagging ways between the win and loss columns with a 67-64 defeat at the hands of the equally-desperate Wildcats at the Erwin Center.
Instead of sitting pretty in fourth place with the tiebreaker edge over OU, Texas (15-9, 5-6 Big 12) is now sixth. Granted, the Longhorns get to face all the teams below them again this month. But coach Shaka Smart has warned against the win-loss-win nature of teams and how that stunts continuity.
After Barry Brown Jr. missed a one-and-one opportunity with 15.9 seconds left, Texas had a chance to tie things up. But Matt Coleman missed a running jumper with 3 seconds left, and the Wildcats collected the rebound. Texas still had a chance with 2 seconds left, but Kerwin Roach II stumbled over his defender. His final last-gasp attempt didn’t even have a chance and fans shuffled out in silence.
Smart said Mo Bamba was fatigued in the first half Saturday against Oklahoma. Bamba looked sluggish and didn’t get going until after halftime. Not against K-State. Bamba came out of the gates roaring. He scored on a layup and then on a follow-up dunk two possessions later. Bamba tallied up 15 points and seven rebounds and one monster block in the first half.
No fatigue this time. But there weren’t many shots for him in the second half, either. His only bucket after the break was a dunk that made it a three-point game. He finished with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Two specific plays in the first half were highlight-reel worthy. Oddly enough, both involved K-State’s Cartier Diarra.
With 3:33 left before halftime, Diarra came flying through the lane and took flight. He scored on a sweeping reverse layup where the ball nearly went higher than the backboard. But the ball splashed true as the Wildcats took a 27-26 lead.
Minutes later, Diarra went for another quick score, only this time Mo Bamba was there for the defensive play of the night. Bamba stuffed Diarra at the rim, and the 6-foot-4 guard’s body went temporarily horizontal. Bamba gave Diarra a rather nasty look when it was all done.
The best news of the day came out of Houston where Texas guard Andrew Jones is battling leukemia. He tweeted several times on Wednesday indicating that he was up and moving around, even getting some time on a basketball court.
— Andrew Jones (@DrewdotCash) February 7, 2018
If someone knows why Dylan Osetkowski has such sluggish starts, please inform the Texas coaching staff. Osetkowski didn’t have a single point and was 0 for 1 shooting in the first half. He had only two rebounds and was generally out of it despite playing 17 minutes. Texas needs all it can get from the 6-foot-9 big man.
He finally got on the scoreboard with a tough leaner that fell true and drew the foul. Osetkowski finished off the 3-point play with ease. Then, he came down and fired up a 3-pointer that splashed true. Suddenly, Osetkowski had six points as Texas had a 47-44 lead.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Official Joe DeRosa was part of the officiating crew in Lubbock when Texas and Texas Tech got into a free throw contest. But the officiating crew wanted to get through this one quick, apparently. Texas had only seven free throw attempts in the first half while K-State had only two. In fact, the Wildcats didn’t get their first free throw attempt of the second half until the final minute when UT was fouling like crazy to get K-State into the bonus.
Texas has a difficult stretch coming with three of its next four games on the road. First comes Saturday’s trip to TCU, a team that looks completely different now that guard Jaylen Fisher is injured. Fisher missed the potential game-winning layup in double overtime that helped Texas escape with a 99-98 victory on Jan. 10. Texas will then host Baylor (Feb. 12) and play at Oklahoma (Feb. 17) and Kansas State (Feb. 21).
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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