AUSTIN (KXAN) — The No. 6 Texas Longhorns got down early and could never recover in a 116-103 loss to Kansas State on Tuesday at Moody Center.
The Wildcats used tremendous ball movement to rack up 23 assists and created easy buckets with backdoor cutters, and point guard Markquis Nowell was on fire from 3-point range. He nailed 6-of-10 attempts from long range and ended with a game-high 36 points. He was also 12-for-12 from the foul line.
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“Nowell was a problem tonight in transition and pick-and-roll,” Longhorns acting head coach Rodney Terry said. “We didn’t have one of our best efforts defensively.”
Kansas State led 58-40 at halftime, and while the Longhorns still played very well offensively and made runs at the Wildcats throughout the second half, Kansas State always had an answer. With 58 points in each half, that was the most in a half for the Wildcats in its Big 12 Conference history. The total points are a school record for the Wildcats. As a team, Kansas State shot 60% from the field (36-for-60) and 54% from three-point range (13-for-24).
It’s the first time this season the Longhorns have lost at home.
Along with Nowell’s huge night, Keyontae Johnson poured in 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting and Cam Carter had 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“They play really fast, and our plan was the play with pace with them,” Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang said. “I thought at several positions we were quicker than them, and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
The Longhorns cut the Wildcats’ lead to seven points in the second half after a Jabari Rice three-point play with 7:01 left to make it 89-82, and fans at Moody Center erupted after Rice hit the awkward layup while he was fouled. That. however, was as close as the Longhorns would get. Nowell scored 15 points following Rice’s big play, including a perfect 12-for-12 performance from the foul line.
“Keyontae, Markquis, Cam’s big three … every time the crowd got into it, our guys were able to calm it down,” Tang said. “We’re still learning and still growing, and trying to focus on what’s in front of us.”
Another calling card for this Texas team is its ability to force turnovers. The Longhorns were No. 16 in the country, forcing 17.77 turnovers per game, but the savvy Wildcats settled down in the second half and committed just two after 10 first-half turnovers. Texas scored just nine points off the 11 turnovers.
“We weren’t guarding at the level we need to,” Terry said. “The defense is a work-in-progress and it’s an area we have to improve in as a team.”
Texas played well offensively, particularly in the second half when they really had to push the ball to try to get back in the game. Tyrese Hunter had 29 points on 8-of-16 shooting and Marcus Carr scored 27 on 10-of-19 shooting. The duo combined to shoot 9-for-19 from 3-point range, but Texas was hampered inside with an injury to Christian Bishop in the first half and Timmy Allen dealing with foul trouble. The Wildcats scored 42 points in the paint to Texas’ 34, and a lot of those were layups from great cuts to the rim without Texas interior defenders reacting fast enough.
Jabari Rice had another nice game off the bench for Texas with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting. As a team, the Longhorns shot 51.5% from the field, 41% from 3-point range and 85% from the foul line, which is a great night on offense, but the Longhorns didn’t hold up on the defensive end.
Texas (12-2, 1-1 Big 12 Conference) plays an early game in Stillwater on Saturday against Oklahoma State. The game tips at 11 a.m. Kansas State (13-1, 2-0) stays along Interstate 35 for Saturday’s game against Baylor in Waco.