MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)—A.J. Abrams was nowhere to be found in the first half. He wasn’t looking for his shots and was missing the few he took.
One shot changed everything.
Abrams scored all 13 of his points in the second half—sparked by a 3-pointer 5 minutes in—and D.J. Augustin had 24 points, helping No. 5 Texas beat Kansas State 74-65 on Monday night, the Longhorns’ eighth straight win.
“A.J. really got going,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “They went to the 3-2 zone and that’s good for A. That was an important stretch.”
Abrams struggled his previous two games, scoring a total of 14 points, including a season-low five against Oklahoma on Saturday. He wasn’t much of a factor in the first half of this one, missing both shots he took.
Abrams finally scored 5 minutes into the second half, using a baseline screen to get open for a 3-pointer in the corner. The shot seemed to boost his sagging confidence and suddenly Abrams became more aggressive, hitting two more 3-pointers in the next 2 minutes.
He added another 3 to put the Longhorns up 62-54 with just under 5 minutes left, and finished 4-of-9 from the field after going 4-for-20 the previous two games combined.
“I just kept shooting,” said Abrams, who broke the Texas record for 3-pointers with his 249th. “My teammates and coaches told me to keep shooting the ball, so that’s what I did.”
Texas (24-4, 11-2 Big 12) didn’t get much production outside of its two speedy guards, but the Longhorns put the squeeze on Kansas State with their stingy defense and improved to 8-0 in February to match a school record set in 1962-63.
Connor Atchley scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half after struggling with foul trouble for the Longhorns, who have held their last three opponents to a combined 23 percent shooting.
Texas leads the Big 12 by 1 1/2 games over Kansas and needs one win in its final three games to match the school record of 25 regular-season wins, set two seasons ago.
“They’ve been playing better than any team in the country,” Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley said. “They’re a good team. They defend. They’ve got a whole army.”
Kansas State (18-9, 8-5) got another big night from Beasley—30 points and 15 rebounds—but had trouble solving Texas’ aggressive zone and lost its third straight. The Wildcats shot 32 percent and got almost nothing from second-leading scorer Bill Walker to see their 10-game home winning streak end.
Kansas State’s biggest problem was shooting from the perimeter. The Wildcats were 7-of-27 from 3-point range, a mark that would have been much lower if freshman Jacob Pullen (19 points) hadn’t gone 5-for-9 from behind the arc.
“They’re big. They’re so darn big,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. “They’re long and they pressure you. They’re a good team.”
Augustin gave Kansas State all kinds of problems at the other end.
The 6-foot sophomore seemed to get where he wanted whenever he wanted, dribbling around the perimeter, poking and prodding Kansas State’s defense to open up 3-pointers and drives to the basket.
Augustin had 12 points by halftime and helped Texas to a 57-50 lead midway through the second half, scoring on a floater then a three-point play after snatching the ball from the hands of Kansas State guard Fred Brown. He also had five assists and four steals.
“D.J. was great, but then D.J.’s always great,” Barnes said.
So was Beasley.
Kansas State missed 12 of its first 16 shots overall and its first eight 3-point attempts. Somehow, the Wildcats scratched out a 30-all tie at halftime— thanks to Beasley.
Aggressive from the start, the 6-10 freshman made quick moves instead of waiting for the defense to collapse around him. He had Texas big men Atchley and Gary Johnson in foul trouble in the first 10 minutes, and had his 24th double-double by halftime with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Beasley finished 10-for-21 from the field after scoring a Big-12 record 44 points in a 92-86 loss to Baylor on Saturday.
“He’s got a special game,” Barnes said. “He’s got great hands, soft hands. I think he’s really a better shooter than people think he is, great around the rim.”
While Beasley followed one big game with another, Walker didn’t.
The freshman forward scored 31 points against Baylor, but was clearly frustrated by the physical play inside, complaining to the officials repeatedly in the second half. He finished with one point, missing all 14 of his field goal attempts.
“Bill played as hard as he could play,” Martin said. “Bill defended, he went after balls. Give Texas some credit. They did the same thing to Kevin Love at UCLA, and Kevin Love, last time I checked, is a pretty good player. Texas is good.”