If you play enough close games, especially ones where you could have pulled away, bad things will eventually happen. That's what happened in K-State's 67-64 loss at Texas tonight, in a game both teams probably deserved to lose.
Instead, Jonathan Holmes hit a three at the buzzer to save all the neutral observers from another ugly five minutes of basketball and send Kansas State to an extremely painful conference road loss. It's worth noting the shot came after both teams missed a pair of free throws and Texas wasted a full second by passing to a guy so he could call timeout and set up the game-winning play.
Even the good plays near the end of the game, like Shane Southwell's awkward runner to tie with 7 seconds left and Javan Felix's jumper over Jevon Thomas with less than a minute to go seemed more like luck than anything else. It was really that kind of night, and both teams had their share of chances to pull away.
After a rather forgettable first 13 minutes or so, an alley-oop from Marcus Foster to Wesley Iwundu seemed to finally wake up the ‘Cats for a 7-0 run, which could have been 9-0 if Iwundu hadn't missed two straight free throws. Still, it put K-State in front, at least until Damarcus Croaker finished an alley-oop from Demarcus Holland.
Texas' athleticism and size, particularly the bulk of Cameron Ridley, gave K-State nightmares in the paint on both ends pretty much the whole game. Texas' 6-9, 285-pound
lineman center scored 18 points, including 12 in the first half, before he eventually picked up his 7th 5th foul.
Thomas Gipson wasn't quite as efficient (10-of-18 from the field vs. 7-of-10) but he had quite a game himself, posting 24 points and carrying the ‘Cats on his back at times. One of his biggest plays came midway through the second half, when he slammed home another great pass from Thomas and drew a critical third foul from Ridley, then even made the free throw (!).
That started a very nice 9-2 run that appeared briefly like it might be decisive, or might have if you hadn't been watching the rest of the game. The Longhorns came back from a timeout and scored four straight points to make it clear they weren't going away, and when they finally got tough on Big Gip inside, K-State went almost four minutes between field goals at a crucial time.
The offense could have looked a lot better, even with leading scorer Marcus Foster as a virtual non-factor. It's actually kind of amazing K-State got so close on the road with him scoring just 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting while playing only 27 minutes.
Fortunately, Shane Southwell got hot in the second half and even Will Spradling helped out a little with a pair of 3-pointers before halftime. Meanwhile, Thomas had another fantastic game as a facilitator creating all kinds of shots for his teammates, but at some point he's going to have to develop a credible jump shot, and he really needs to stop missing wide open layups.
Of course, it would be unfair to not also point out Holmes didn't do a whole lot offensively (he did have 10 rebounds) until his final shot, which also gave him 8 points for the night. Felix proved to be quite a pest and made up the difference by scoring a 23 and just abusing the K-State guards all night long.
Tough nights like these are the ones where great teams find a way to battle through their struggles and still get the win, which would have kept K-State all alone at second place in the Big 12 within striking distance of KU. Instead, the young group couldn't quite find the answers and dropped into a tie for 2nd, putting the Jayhawks firmly in the driver's seat yet again and making Saturday's game at Iowa State even more important.