Three takeaways from Kansas State Wildcats’ narrow home loss against Texas Longhorns

Charlie Riedel/AP

The Kansas State men’s basketball team was unable to protect a double-digit lead and lost an important conference game against Texas, 69-66, on Saturday inside Bramlage Coliseum.

Keyontae Johnson led the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4 Big 12) with 16 points, but offense was otherwise difficult to come by. Sir’Jabari Rice and Christian Bishop both led the Longhorns (19-4, 8-2 Big 12) with 14 points and several clutch plays in the final minutes.

Both teams reacted to this result in opposite ways.

“This is one of the best wins I have ever been a part of,” Texas coach Rodney Terry said.

“I don’t want to watch this one,” K-State coach Jerome Tang said. “I want us to live with this feeling for the next 48 hours because our fans deserve better than what I did as a head coach and what we did as a staff and what we did as players on the floor in that second half.”

K-State will try to bounce back in its next game against TCU on Tuesday.

Until then, here are some takeaways from Saturday’s action:

Forgettable game from Markquis Nowell

This was not a quality outing from Kansas State’s point guard.

Markquis Nowell played one of his worst games of the season and finished with only 10 points against the Longhorns. Not only was it difficult for him to score in this matchup, he also turned the ball over six times and didn’t make a single shot from three-point range.

He was 4 of 11 from the field and 0 for 5 on three-pointers.

On a day when offense was difficult, the Wildcats needed more from one of their star players.

Nowell will regret two plays the most from this one. They both occurred in the final minute with K-State trying to make a go-ahead bucket while trailing 67-66.

The possession began with him driving down the lane for a layup, but Texas forward Christian Bishop swatted it away. As luck would have it, the ball ended up back in Nowell’s hands a few seconds later in the corner. But he wasted that opportunity as well and ended up throwing an errant pass that was stolen.

Texas made a pair of free throws on the other end and took a three-point lead. Ismael Massoud was unable to hit a game-tying three on the other end and the Wildcats lost after leading 36-25 at halftime.

Early foul trouble for Keyontae Johnson ... again

A concerning trend is beginning to take shape early on in K-State basketball games.

Keyontae Johnson, the team’s leading scorer and most consistent overall player, has developed a bad habit of committing early fouls. K-State basketball coach Jerome Tang has needed to monitor Johnson’s minutes in the first half of several recent games, and it happened again on Saturday.

The Big 12 officiating crew that was on hand for this game whistled him for a pair of fouls in the opening 1:07 of the game. The second foul was perhaps a foolish one on his part, as he attacked the rim on offense and picked up a charge immediately after getting his first.

That meant K-State had to spend much of the first half without Johnson on the floor. Tang still tried to find some creative ways to get him in the game when the Wildcats were on offense, but not even that strategy was safe enough to keep him out of further foul trouble. Johnson picked up his third foul with about 5 minutes remaining in the first half.

Given that K-State was leading by double digits at the time, some may wonder why he was in the game at all.

It didn’t seem to hurt the Wildcats early on, as they managed to take a 36-25 lead at halftime with Johnson only seeing five minutes of playing time. But it is something they would like to avoid in the future. K-State is a much better team when Johnson is in the lineup.

No shootout this time

The last time these two teams played they broke several Big 12 scoring records in a game that Kansas State won 116-103.

Round 2 went much differently.

This game was not played at a NBA pace with players on both teams draining open three-pointers left and right. The rematch was a lot closer to a rock fight with everyone on the court clawing for points.

Just goes to show that no two games are the same in the Big 12.