Texas Basketball Loses Heartbreaker at Kansas State, 84-80

I won't go full monty with this game as it was a tough loss to swallow. After looking like they'd get run out of the gym early (K-State opened up a 15 point first half lead), the young Horns settled down in a tough road environment. They went into the break down 43-42 and kept the margin within single digits throughout the second half. Texas was down by two, 82-80, on its second to last possession, but never got off a shot after an ill-fated handoff from Myck Kabongo to J'Covan Brown resulted in a K-State steal and slam to seal the game.

There was a lot to be encouraged about, if you're a Texas fan. Myck Kabongo played a nearly flawless first half, though he wore down significantly in the second as Frank Martin kept running athletic guard after athletic guard to tire the freshman. He ended up with 14 points and 10 rebounds assists (good), but also 6 turnovers (bad). First half Kabongo flashed why NBA scouts think of him as a first round pick, and Texas fans still need to hold their collective breath that Myck will return for year two.

J'Covan Brown's 22 points (good) came on 28 shots (bad). It was a mixture of open shots not falling and Brown trying to force the action against a defensively heady Wildcats club. Even when shooting 29% from the field, Brown is such a pure basketball player that it's poetry in motion to watch him play. I believe it was Brown that first recognized that K-State was giving up the backdoor cut, a play Texas ran multiple times with successful passes but (mostly) unsuccessful finishes.

Sheldon McClellan has a really pretty midrange game, and at times he looks like a Jordan Hamilton clone out there. If he isn't the Horns' best offensive threat by his junior season, I'll be really surprised and his non-development or really pleased that Texas landed a blue chipper like Julius Randle. McClellan finished with 19 as the second-leading scorer.

When Clint Chapman stays out of foul trouble, he's been a hoss. Barnes has been experimenting with putting both Chapman and Alexis Wangmene on the floor together, to successful results. Their senior experiences combined help overcome individual limitations, and it's worked against teams like Missouri and Kansas State that don't deploy frontcourts with NBA talent. Whether it'll work against Kansas and Baylor...umm, I'm not counting on it.

On the K-State ledger, Rodney McGruder channeled his inner J'Covan and had the game of his life with 33 points and 8 rebounds. Freshman Thomas Gipson flashed a huge second half (11 and 6), and if that had been Jaylen Bond's stat line instead of Gipson's, Texas gets the W. Will Spradling is one of my favorite Big 12 players because he plays wicked smart. Spradling got 6 quick second half points by simply running away from an exhausted Kabongo.

In the end, the same old, same old came back to bite Texas' keester. The Longhorns don't take care of the ball well enough (16 TO's), they don't squeeze enough defensive boards (16 offensive rebounds by the Wildcats), and they don't identify and close out on distance shooters (K-State shot 7-15 from 3). These are little things that aren't totally talent or experience related. It's just "want to," and I'm seeing a Texas program as a whole (both players and coaches) fall just short of getting the requisite W's.

We can talk about moral victories and player development all we want, but the bottom line is Texas now has 3 losses against surefire tourney teams (UNC, Mizzou, KSU), 2 losses against fellow bubble teams (ISU, NCST), and 1 terrible loss to Oregon State (currently 11th place in the Pac 12). That's against just 1 win to a possible tournament team (Temple). If Texas wants to show the tournament committee that the Horns are deserving of a tournament seed, a huge home upset against Kansas on Saturday would be a nice start. Plus, Texas is hosting 5* prospect Devonta Pollard on an official visit. It'd be nice to send him home with a huge win fresh in his mind.

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