AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Kevin Durant got his points for Texas. Cartier Martin and Kansas State got the win.
And in case anyone hadn’t noticed yet, the Wildcats are now a legitimate threat to win the Big 12 under first-year head coach Bob Huggins.
Martin scored Kansas State’s last five points—hitting a 3-pointer for the lead and two key free throws to hold on—to help the Wildcats pull out a 73-72 victory Saturday over the No. 22 Longhorns.
Martin scored 27 points as the Wildcats, one of the league’s worst shooting teams, blistered the Longhorns’ zone defense with 14-of-27 shooting on 3-pointers.
Kansas State (17-6, 6-2) has won six in a row in the Big 12 after an 0-2 start and the long-struggling Wildcats are now sitting in second place halfway through the conference schedule.
“It gives us a chance to fight for first,” Martin said. “That’s what excites me the most. This is a big win for us.”
Martin’s 3-pointer with 41 seconds left gave Kansas State a 71-68 lead and his two free throws with 13 seconds left made it 73-70.
Texas tried to set up for a 3-pointer to tie but Justin Mason’s shot was way off the mark and the putback by Damion James at the horn left the Longhorns one point short.
Kevin Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds for Texas (16-6, 6-2), but didn’t touch the ball on the Longhorns’ final possession.
“Whoever was open was supposed to take that (last) shot,” Durant said. “We just didn’t get the job done.”
Durant is averaging 33 points in Big 12 games but got little help from his teammates Saturday. His 13 field goals tied the rest of his team. Guard A.J. Abrams, one of the league’s best 3-point shooters, was 2-of-16 from the field.
“It was a tough night,” Abrams said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in.”
Martin and Lance Harris combined for 12 3-pointers for Kansas State.
Durant had 11 points and only one rebound in the first half. He looked passive early as the Wildcats did a good job denying his teammates chances to pass him the ball. Akeem Wright, the Wildcats’ best defender, dogged Durant when he got it, giving him little room to take passes or move when he had the ball.
Harris scored 16 points in the first half, hitting four 3-pointers against the Longhorns’ zone defense. Texas led 38-33 at halftime.
Durant was much more active in the second half, scoring Texas’ first 10 points by either driving past defenders or slipping behind them for easy layups. Defensively, he snagged rebounds and in one 10-second span blocked three straight shots by the Wildcats’ Clent Stewart.
But even as Durant started to cut loose, the Wildcats kept bombing away from 3-point range and led 49-48 on Martin’s shot from the left corner.
Texas retook the lead, but coach Rick Barnes never left the zone defense that kept leaving the Wildcats wide open around the perimeter before Martin’s last 3-pointer. Kansas State kept moving the ball looking for the wide open shot.
“They played so much 2-3 zone,” Huggins said. “We were kind of forced to shoot that many.”
Durant’s last layup with 27 seconds left pulled Texas within one. But the Longhorns had picked up only four fouls to that point and had to watch valuable seconds tick off trying to get the Wildcats to the free throw line.
When they finally did, Martin calmly sunk both of his shots.
“I don’t think the 3s beat us,” Barnes said. “The 3 is a great equalizer when they’re making it. They haven’t shot like that all year. When we needed a stop, we couldn’t get it done.”