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Longhorns surrender first-half lead, drop Big 12 Tournament opener to Kansas State, 78-74

Joe Cookby:Joe Cook03/13/24


In the first half of the first round of their Big 12 Tournament matchup in Kansas City, the Longhorns went on a 14-0 run and held the Wildcats scoreless for over five minutes. Texas entered halftime up 39-29. Then, K-State crept back in the game bit by bit. KSU cut the lead to six, then three, then took a lead with under 12 minutes left, one they would not surrender.

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Texas allowed 49 points in the second half, with Wildcats Tylor Perry, Dai Dai Ames, and Arthur Kaluma all posting double figures on the Texas defense in the final 20 minutes. The Longhorns made a spirited comeback effort, but could not overcome the surging Wildcats and were eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament with their 78-74 loss.

The Longhorns now must wait until Sunday, March 17 to hear their NCAA Tournament fate on the selection show on CBS.

Texas shot a sizzling 57 percent in the first half, with Dillon Mitchell posting 11 points and 5 rebounds while controlling multiple aspects of the game. Max Abmas, as part of his 26-point night, posted 10 points in the first half.

They could not repeat the performance in the second half. Abmas scored 16 points but no other Longhorn had more than six in the final 20 minutes. Fouls plagued the Horns as Dylan Disu recorded his fourth foul with 10:58 left in the half and was held out until the 6:41 mark. Texas trailed by one when Disu exited, and was down by seven when he returned.

Brock Cunningham also fouled out with seven seconds to go, but the result was assured by that point.

Disu’s absence wasn’t the sole reason for KSU’s run but it was a major factor. That said, the Wildcats went on a 16-4 spree from the 13:41 mark to the 8:23 mark in the second half with Disu on the floor. All the Longhorns could manage in that stretch was an Abmas layup and a pair of Tyrese Hunter free throws.

The Longhorns tried to make a late run by playing the foul game, but an intentional foul called on Chendall Weaver with 21 seconds left not only gave Perry two chances at the line (which he converted) but also possession of the ball. KSU scored on the ensuing opportunity, and despite Abmas’ best efforts the margin was too much to overcome.

Abmas scored 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting, also adding four rebounds and four assists. Disu, foul trouble and all, scored nine points and pulled down nine rebounds.

Ithiel Horton scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 32 minutes. He also added five rebounds. Mitchell controlled the first half with 11 points and five rebounds. He would just score two more points and pull down one more rebound in the second 20 minutes.

The Longhorns had just three points from starting guard Hunter, who was also 0-for-7 from the field.

Bench players Kadin Shedrick, Ze’Rik Onyema, Weaver, and Cunningham combined for nine points on 2-of-9 shooting and a 1-for-4 night from three.

Texas shot 42 percent from the field, 26 percent from three, and 75 percent from deep. Texas posted 29/27/87 splits in the second half. Perry scored 21 points, Ames added 10 points, and Kaluma scored 14.

Wildcats Cam Certer and David N’Guessan also were in double figures, scoring 10 and 14 points, respectively.

The Longhorns leave Kansas City and will not be able to defend their Big 12 Tournament title. With a 9-9 record in the Big 12 and a top 25 ranking in NET entering the day, Texas is almost assured a spot in the field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament.

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But they will have to wait until Sunday before they can rest assured of an at-large bid, and may see their name on the 9-seed line as a result of Wednesday’s loss.

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