Cats’ normally steady ‘D’ falls short

By Joel Jellison

AUSTIN, Texas — Throughout the season, Kansas State has made a living on playing good defense and getting clutch offense when it needed it most.

On Tuesday against Texas, that recipe for success didn’t fall into place, as the Longhorns defeated the 22nd-ranked Wildcats, 67-64, on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, just one day after K-State re-entered the AP Top 25.

(Kansas State’s Thomas Gipson takes a foul to the face from Texas’ Prince Ibeh in the second half onTuesday in Austin, Texas. Gipson finished with a career-high 24 points).

The Wildcats entered the game winners of 12 of their last 13 games, but most importantly, winning the games that came down to gut-check moments.

But against Texas, when the Longhorns were struggling for five minutes in the second half without a basket, the Wildcats were just 2 of 10 from the floor and couldn’t extend their lead by more than three points.

In the moment when it seemed like Texas was about to lay down, K-State couldn’t put the Longhorns away.

“You go on the road, you have a chance to grab the game, that’s when you’ve got to,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said.

“You’ve got to take the game — we didn’t. We’ve made a lot of plays in big stretches, we had our opportunities, but we’ve got to do a better job executing down the stretch.”

The Longhorns seemed to get shots whenever they needed them after that, right down to making the game-winning shot on a 3-pointer from Jonathan Holmes.

Javan Felix, who was making less than 35 percent of his shots on the season, seemed to score at will, finishing with 23 points and three 3-pointers.

“It all started on defense, we really couldn’t get stops,” K-State forward Thomas Gipson said. “When we really needed it, really had to put it away, we couldn’t. And then it was tough for us.”

Texas scored 32 points in the paint and took advantage of extra chances, finishing with 15 second-chance points.

Along with Felix, Cam Ridley controlled the paint with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

“I feel like Ridley and Felix did a good job today of scoring and keeping them into the game,” Gipson said. “Our defense is good, we rely on our defense — it just wasn’t there. We’ve got to get better on away games, because at home we’re pretty good on defense.

“We’ve just got to have a extra spark on away games.”

Also missing for the Wildcats were their freshmen, the four of whom have all contributed at different points this season.

Marcus Foster had just eight points, while Wesley Iwundu had five and Jevon Thomas scored two. Nigel Johnson didn’t even play.

Gipson said after the game, the team spoke about needing more from the young players. But again, Gipson said that goes for everyone else as well.

“They’ve got to be more cut-in, we’ve all got to be more cut-in, especially on the road,” Gipson said. “We have to be sharper and more crisp, especially on executing our offensive plays.

“We can’t be stagnant. We just have to stick together and put this loss behind us and move forward.”

The Wildcats’ first chance to move forward will be another tough one as they travel to Ames, Iowa, this Saturday to play Iowa State.

Weber said if his team is going to have a chance to compete in the Big 12, it has to win games on the road.

“You’ve got to protect home court, but you’ve got to find ways to win on the road,” he said. “Last year, we were 6-3 — we’re already 1-2.

“It’s a long season, there’s a lot of ups and downs.”

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