MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) – With one of the top seeds at next month’s Big 12 conference tournament still up for grabs, Isaiah Taylor knew No. 25 Texas couldn’t afford to lose on the road this late in the season to an inexperienced Kansas State.
So when push came to shove late, Taylor provided the type of clutch effort a team needs to grind out road wins in league play.
The junior guard scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer to all but ice the game with less than a minute to play, and Texas held on to beat Kansas State 71-70 on Monday night.
“I had the ball at the top of the key. Shaquille (Cleare) set the screen, but I really had no intention of using the screen,” Taylor said. “I just told Shaq to move out of the way.”
He did, and Taylor found nothing but net.
Javan Felix had 11 of his 13 points in the first half and Eric Davis, Jr. finished with 10 points for Texas (18-10, 9-6 Big 12). Connor Lammert had eight points and seven rebounds.
“I don’t care if we win by one or by 100. We came up here to win,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “It certainly wasn’t our best game, but our guys battled.”
Kansas State (15-13, 4-11) was forced to play catch-up in the second half after falling behind by as many as eight points. When the Wildcats got as close as 66-65 with 1:03 to play, Taylor stepped back and hit a 3-pointer with a defender in his face.
Dean Wade later had a chance to be the hero for Kansas State, but his would-be game winner clunked off the front of the rim to end the game.
Justin Edwards had 20 points and eight rebounds for Kansas State, while D.J. Johnson added 16 points and Wesley Iwundu had 12.
The Wildcats have lost six conference games by 10 points or less.
“Maybe one of these times,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said, “something will go our way and we’ll find a way to win.”
The thrilling finish didn’t entirely tell the story.
Texas stormed out to an early lead before Felix book-ended the period with seven of his 11 first-half points in a 2-minute span to give the Longhorns a 38-35 halftime lead.
Kansas State was fortunate to only trail by three.
At one point, the Wildcats were behind 22-18, with only Edwards and Johnson having made field goals. It wasn’t until the 7:29 mark that assistance came with Carlbe Ervin hit two free throws.
The teams combined for 24 fouls, resulting in a sloppy 20 minutes that lacked any sort of rhythm. Eleven were called against the Wildcats, including one on Wade with 3:35 to play, when the freshman was actually elbowed in the face. The purple-clad fans’ groans grew so loud during the ensuing free throws that the officials went over to the monitor to take another look.
Nothing else was called.
Texas clung to its lead throughout the second half, fending off each Kansas State run, including a jumper from Taylor with 3:34 left to stretch a one-point lead back to three. The guard then did it again with 43 seconds remaining, stepping back and hitting the big 3-pointer with a defender in his face.
“We are still becoming who we really are,” Smart said. “It was a good step to go on the road in this league and win — I do not care who you are playing.”
Texas: Center Prince Ibeh played just 9 minutes, fouling out with 4 minutes to play in the game. He finished with three points and one field goal. . The Longhorns have won four straight against Kansas State.
Kansas State: Since scoring 17 points against then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Feb. 6, Wade has shot just 11 of 32 from the field.
“It’s pretty easy to notice, he’s hit a wall,” Weber said of Wade. “But he’ll be fine. He’s a good, young man who cares a lot — probably too much.”
Texas: hosts No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Kansas State: visits No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday.
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