KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Myck Kabongo scored 24 points against Kansas State the last time the Wildcats played Texas.
It wasn’t going to happen again.
“He’s their best player, and in basketball you have to take that challenge personal,” K-State senior Martavious Irving said.
The Longhorns’ sophomore could only muster two junk points — a pair of free throws in the final minute of the Wildcats’ 66-49 victory over Texas Thursday night in the Big 12 quarterfinals at the Sprint Center.
Texas was 6-3 since Kabongo’s return to the Longhorns after serving a 23-game suspension, averaging nearly 16 points a game. Though K-State (26-6) won the game, Kabongo burned the Wildcats on 8-of-12 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers in the last meeting on Feb. 23 in Austin.
On Thursday, though, the dynamic guard missed all five attempts from the field and turned the ball over five times in 37 minutes.
“You’ve got to cut off the head of the snake,” said Irving, who had six points and five rebounds off the bench. “He’s their head, their leader… He went off on us last time, even though they lost — he had a great game. We wanted to change that tonight.”
Kabongo tried to downplay his lackluster showing against the Wildcats in a game that could have possibly ended the Longhorns’ season and his college career if he opts to declare early for the NBA draft.
“It doesn’t matter how you play as an individual,” he said. “We didn’t win. It’s a collective thing. We need everyone to play well, and that’s what it takes to win, and we didn’t do that. That’s why we didn’t win. It’s a team thing.”
It took a team effort to slow Kabongo and the Longhorns, who shot just 34 percent from the field and had 15 turnovers — nine from their two starting guards.
Shane Southwell, who blocked three shots and came away with three steals in the win, said Thursday’s performance against Kabongo ranks toward the top of the Wildcats’ best defensive performances this season.
“That’s got to be up there,” he said. “It was a really good defensive effort by Martavious, Angel (Rodriguez) and Will (Spradling).
“He’s the type of player that will get by people eventually, so help has to be there. I think for the most part, we were there.”
The key, Irving said, was to keep Kabongo from getting loose in the open court.
“He’s one of the quickest guards in the country, so you have to stay in front of him — we did a good job of that tonight,” he said. “If he’s not the fastest guard in the country, then he’s No. 2. Coast to coast, he can hurt you and it’s hard to guard him in transition.”
Perhaps Southwell said it best, though.
“You want to shut down the best player every time, and if you shut down the best player, more than likely, you will win the game,” he said.