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On the surface, it appeared the reason the Texas Longhorns dropped a Big 12 home game to the Kansas State Wildcats was because freshman Matt Coleman’s lob attempt to fellow freshman Mohamed Bamba was swatted away before it reached the Harlem big man. Diving deeper, it wasn’t just one play. It was 40 minutes of a team that played uninspired after one of its most inspired and energetic performances of the season.
Kansas State’s entire starting five scored in double figures, slicing through the Texas defense in the second half. Bamba and juniors Dylan Osetkowski and Kerwin Roach all failed to individually put complete games together, and Coleman could not bring what he had going against Oklahoma to the game Wednesday night as the Longhorns fell 67-64.
Coleman admitted following the game he should have just laid it up in an attempt to tie it at 66 rather than go for the alley-oop. KSU recovered the ball and had leading scorer Dean Wade make one of two foul shots, giving Texas one more chance to tie it with three seconds left. Roach stumbled while trying to throw the ball to the basket, missing wildly and letting the Wildcats leave Austin with a victory.
Though the loss could be attributed to the missed bucket or lob attempt, the freshman point guard attributed it to poor energy.
“I thought our spirit wasn’t there all the way,” Coleman said. “We didn’t have enough energy going into the game.”
Familiar problems continued to pop up on offense including missed threes, a bad assist-to-turnover ratio (11-16) and lengthy scoreless stretches. What really cost Texas, and what correlates with effort, was the defense.
Kansas State made just six three-pointers in the game, four of them coming in the first half. What they did do well was shoot the ball inside the arc. The Wildcats put together a 54 percent team shooting effort compared to Texas’ 41 percent.
Texas began to play more zone with 12 minutes left in the game and KSU was able to find holes at the elbow and points at the rim much more effectively than Texas. KSU had 38 points in the paint to Texas’ 28.
“I thought our zone was good for a while,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said after the game. “It slowed them down and forced them to shoot some jumpers, which they missed, but they did a good job of figuring out how to get the ball to the high post and then they got behind our defense a couple of times.”
In the end, it was another defensive style that cost the Longhorns.
“Our man-to-man let us down,” Smart said. “We didn’t stop them enough.”
Texas shot out of the gate scoring 14 points before the first media timeout. Bamba was able to work down low, as was freshman Jericho Sims against mismatches. The Wildcats would respond, continually chipping away at the Texas lead a point at a time.
While Bamba had a strong first half, two-thirds of the team leadership had terrible performances. Roach and Osetkowski combined to go 0-of-7 from the field and turned the ball over six times. Junior Eric Davis’ 8 points to back up Bamba lifted Texas up going into the halftime break, but KSU’s continual effort resulted in a deadlock at 34 entering halftime.
Coming out of the half Kansas State hit four of their first six while Texas only made two-of-seven. Roach and Osetkowski continued to play flat until they both finally got their game going coming out of the under-12.
While those two ratcheted their game up, Bamba’s game took a downturn. The big man was just one-of-five in the second half, scoring just 3 points in the second 20 minutes. He did not have his same defensive presence with just one block to his name for the entire game.
In the end, a lack of defensive effectiveness killed any chance the Longhorns had.
“They shot 54 percent from the field,” Smart said. “They were able to get the ball to their better players and those guys were able to make plays.”
The hot start probably had the Longhorns thinking they were unstoppable, as Smart said they acted in the days since the Oklahoma win.
“It’s disappointing to say the least,” Smart said. “I thought we showed some real immaturity in our response to our last game. It wasn’t something that we addressed or want to work on but I really didn’t like the way that we handled — I mean it was just one game. It was just one win. — coming back from Saturday.”
In addition, Osetkowski had another game in what has been a poor stretch for him. Smart said the junior transfer has been lacking self-confidence recently.
“What he needs to do is play with more aggressiveness starting on the defensive end,” Smart said. “He needs to fight more. I think that’s what was up with him. Right now, he’s questioning himself a little bit. He’s overthinking things and it’s causing him to be hesitant.”
Sitting at 15-9 overall and 5-6 in conference, Texas travels to TCU to try and earn a sixth win in a difficult environment in Fort Worth.
“No game in this league is easy, but home games are supposed to be the games where you lead the spirit as far as who you’re going up against,” Bamba said. “You drop one at home, it hurts a little. We’ve got to reset for TCU on Saturday.”