AUSTIN (AP) – J’Covan Brown scored 23 points and Texas got a career effort from senior forward Alexis Wangmene to rally to a 75-64 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.
The Longhorns’ third win in a row is important for a team desperate to build its NCAA tournament resume over the final weeks of the regular season.
Texas trailed 40-27 at halftime before battling back. Brown, the Big 12′s leading scorer, made a deep 3-pointer to put the Longhorns ahead with just over 8 minutes to play.
Wangmene had his first career double-double for Texas (16-9, 6-6 Big 12). His 15 points and 13 rebounds were both career highs.
Angel Rodriguez scored 15 points for Kansas State (17-7, 6-6), but the point guard also had six of his team’s 16 turnovers.
Desperation seems to be bringing out the best in a Texas team that was in disarray two weeks ago after five losses in six games.
Texas is one of only six schools to make each of the last 13 NCAA tournaments and needs to keep this run going to ensure a 14th. The Longhorns appear to be gaining in confidence with each victory.
Myck Kabongo scored 13 points and Sheldon McClellan 11 for Texas, which did a lot of damage from the free throw line. Texas made 35 of 48 free throws. Kansas State rarely even got to the line and was 8 of 12.
But the Wildcats had their chances to put this one away and pick up their own key late-season victory.
Kansas State built the lead to 15 immediately after halftime before an outstanding defensive effort by Texas reeled the Wildcats back in.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Will Spradling, Rodney McGruder and Spradling again over the final 2 minutes of the first half put Kansas State up 40-27. Spradling’s second 3-pointer from the left wing came with just 1 second left on the shot clock and 26 seconds to go in the half.
Texas shot 28 percent in the half and did not make a basket over the final 8:52, scoring its last six points on free throws.
But Kansas State quickly ran into foul trouble in the second half. Forwards Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez both picked up their fourth fouls in the early minutes of the half. Texas came roaring back into the game behind a 13-0 run that cut Kansas State’s lead to 44-43 on Sheldon McClellan’s dunk off a slashing baseline drive.
Kansas State briefly stepped on the momentum behind a 3-pointer by Martavious Irving, but Texas finally grabbed the lead at 56-54 when Brown made a 3-pointer with 8:18 to play.
The Wildcats never led again. Sloppy play by Rodriguez led to turnovers, and Wangmene muscled the Wildcats forwards out from under the basket to grab rebounds and prevent a rally.
McGruder, who scored 33 against Texas in a Kansas State win on Jan. 18, finished with just 11 points Saturday, and the Wildcats shot 32 percent in the second half.
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