Two steps back as Longhorns lose 73-72

Wednesday night was all smiles for Texas fans as the No. 22 Longhorns took one giant step forward, beating Texas Tech in Lubbock, 76-64. The win was the first quality road victory for the youthful Texas team and looked to be the confidence builder for which the team had been waiting all season. Kansas State had other plans when it took the court Saturday in Austin as the Wildcats came in with a six-game winning streak, including five in a row in Big 12 play. The end result, a shocking 73-72 win by the visiting Wildcats.
Kansas State set the tone physically from the start Saturday, constantly putting a bump on Kevin Durant on both ends of the floor, sending two and three physical bodies to the offensive glass and fighting for each loose ball like it was the last chance at a game ending possession. While Texas did a good job of matching the physical play as the game went on, the Longhorns defense of the three-point line was painful to watch at times.
Kansas State took full advantage of the wide open looks. Whether it be on screen rolls in man-to-man with the game on the line or working the ball against the smallish 2-3 zone for the clean looks from the corner or the wing, the Wildcats torched the Longhorns, hitting 14-of-27 three-pointers in stealing the win.
Kevin Durant was again sensational offensively for the Longhorns, scoring 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. While Durant blocked five shots, he did not have one of his better games defensively as he was slow to rotate on several occasions, resulting in Cartier Martin three-pointers. With that being said, he put the Longhorns in position to win the game with his array of offensive moves off the dribble.
A turning point in the game Saturday began at the 16:14 mark in the second half. After a Durant got the Longhorns going to begin the second half and pushed the lead to 48-40 on a fade away 16-foot jumper, two key series were confidence builders for Kansas State against the tiring Texas Longhorns.
On the first possession for Kansas State with the score 48-40, Lance Harris missed a three-pointer. After a missed jumper by Damion James on a quick possession by Texas, Kansas State got a three-pointer to go down by Martin to cut the lead to 48-43. On that possession, Durant and James were playing defense with a hand on their hips and D.J. Augustin looked to be winded as well. The decision to not call a time out in attempt to wait on the under 16-minute television time out proved to be a momentum grabbing opportunity for the Wildcats and they took advantage.
What followed from the 14:59 mark until the under 16-minute time out at 13:33 proved to be two offensive series that helped the Wildcats gain confidence. Kansas State grabbed five offensive rebounds in the next two possessions, with two coming because of Clent Stewart's repeated attempts to score under the rim against the lengthy wingspan of Durant, but the end result was another Martin three-pointer. With the lead cut to 48-46 and the Wildcat players sensing the momentum change, they went to the under16-minute time out with the most confidence the team had showed over the course of the game.
On the other side, the Texas players were still hands on hips having lost momentum of the game. After the television time out, Martin hit another three-pointer, giving Kansas State its first lead since the 15:55 mark of the first half (10-8).
The decision to not a call a time out by Texas with the 48-43 lead, when the players were clearly winded, proved costly as Texas never regained a two-possession lead or any type of game changing momentum.
When D.J. Augustin committed his third foul of the game 30 seconds into the second half, it put Texas in the position of having to play 2-3 zone against a Kansas State team that hit five of its last six three-pointers in the first half and 5-of-11 overall. The result was too many open looks for the Wildcats as they converted 9-of-16 in the second half.
After Lance Harris hit his fifth three-pointer 1:17 second into the second half, Texas played its first box and one on the season with A.J. Abrams denying Harris the ball.
Offensively, the early third foul kept Augustin from attacking off the dribble as he normally does. With Augustin being the type of player that initiates contact on dribble drives, attacking off the bounce with his physical style was not an option as one player control foul would have sent the Longhorns floor leader to the bench for a long stretch of the game.
The Texas Longhorns did not do a good job of defending the three-point line to say the least. Whether it was screen roll with Hoskins and Martin or moving the ball against the box and one or 2-3, Kansas State got whatever three-point look it desired and at the worst possible times.
The Wildcats did a good job of flashing in and across the lane to the ball side throughout the game. The result was Texas rotating, sometimes rotating to cover a player that couldn't hurt Texas, and opening up the weak side of the floor. Martin took full advantage, hitting numerous three-pointers from the corner with open looks like he probably hadn't experienced since playing at Aldine Nimitz.
On two occasions late, Durant was very slow to find Martin in situations when he should have not rotated off of the hot shooting senior forward.
Kansas State hit 14-of-27 for the game from long range.
Durant had his usual day at the office in Big 12 play, scoring 32 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking five shots. Durant converted 13-of-21 field goals in becoming the first Texas player since 1977 to score 30 points or more in three straight games.
Durant scored on an array of moves off the dribble against the Wildcats and made it look very easy against a physical Kansas State team. Durant played a very smart game on the offensive end only taking four three-pointers (made two). The decision to keep attacking the Kansas State defense off the dribble created offensive rebounding opportunities for his teammates when he did miss a shot.
James took advantage on a couple of those misses.
The loss is not devastating, but could be the difference when seeding time comes in the Big 12 tournament. Kansas State now holds the tiebreaker if it comes down to a tiebreaker for a first round bye. That is the long-term affect.
Short term, it opens the door for a two game losing streak with Monday's game in College Station being a bear and it erases the momentum after the big win at Texas Tech on Wednesday.