No. 21 Texas should expect a different challenge than it faced three weeks ago when the suddenly erratic Longhorns play host to surging Kansas State on Tuesday in a Big 12 Conference meeting at Austin, Texas.
Kansas State will have the majority of its players available, unlike the first game against Texas this season. In a Jan. 4 game at home, the Wildcats gave themselves a chance despite being shorthanded because of COVID-19 issues before succumbing to the Longhorns 70-57.
The Wildcats (9-7, 1-4 Big 12) have hit their stride finally, and head to Austin after a 62-51 victory at home over No. 19 Texas Tech on Saturday.
Texas Tech had defeated No. 1 Baylor four days earlier, but the Wildcats had all the answers in their big win, getting 14 points from Nijel Pack, 12 from Mark Smith and 10 from Mike McGuirl, who was playing his first game in a week after his COVID-related absence.
Kansas State earned a 13-0 advantage in second-chance points, converting those on nine offensive rebounds, while holding Texas Tech to season-tying low six boards on the offensive end.
"It feels really good," Smith said. "We work really hard, and we felt like we were good enough to get wins. We let some slip away, so obviously getting this one is really good when they are a Top 25 team. Hopefully we can just keep building off the momentum."
It was the first time this season the Wildcats had all 10 scholarship players available. Coach Bruce Weber was not there to see the win, however, missing the game with an illness.
The victory snapped a 12-game losing streak for Kansas State in the month of January (dating back to Jan. 29, 2020) and a five-game skid against Top 25 opponents. The Wildcats now have at least one win over a Top 25 team in every season since 2006-07.
Plenty has happened to Texas (13-4, 3-2) since they beat the Wildcats, and most of it has not been good. The Longhorns lost twice on the road, the latest a 79-70 defeat against No. 15 Iowa State on Saturday, when the Cyclones were grittier and more focused.
Andrew Jones led the Longhorns with 18 points, 13 of those in the first half, while Marcus Carr hit for 15 points and Courtney Ramey had 10. Texas committed a season-high 20 turnovers in the loss and allowed Iowa State to shoot a season-high 56.9 percent from the floor.
"Nine of the turnovers came from our forwards - and that just can't happen," Texas coach Chris Beard said. "We shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and were behind because we can't get up enough shots with all our turnovers. We made too many mistakes against a team that played well."
Texas's defense entered allowing 53 points per game to lead the nation but surrendered that amount to the Cyclones before the 15-minute mark of the second half.
"We had to play our best 40 minutes of the season to win against this Iowa State team, and we just didn't," Beard said. "Tonight, I didn't see any great individual performances, and we have to play on both ends."
--Field Level Media