When Texas came to Manhattan on Jan. 30, it was thoroughly beaten by Kansas State 83-57.
But that was before Myck Kabongo returned to the Longhorns’ lineup and led them to two wins in their last three games, including a rare win at Iowa State.
The Wildcats (21-5, 10-3 Big 12) know Texas was a talented team before, that has only gotten better with its sophomore point guard back in the lineup.
“He’s a good leader, a good point guard, so I’m expecting a way better team,” K-State sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez said. “They beat Iowa State at their house, that means a lot. They’re definitely a better team with him.”
Kabongo was suspended by the NCAA before the season in an impermissible benefits case that caused him to miss all but the final eight games on the Longhorns’ regular season schedule. Kabongo has averaged 12.7 points per game since his return to the lineup.
Senior guard Rodney McGruder said the difference Kabongo brings to the Longhorns is in his ability to run the offense.
“Kabongo pushes the ball and he gets to his spots and you’ve got to help,” he said. “He sucks you in so he can kick out to a guy for an open 3.”
Rodriguez has been good at either shutting down or containing the big name point guards of the Big 12 this season, and it’s a challenge he said he’s looking forward to.
“I played against him last year so it’s nothing new, I’m sure he got better over the summer and the time he was sitting down, and I feel like I got better too,” he said. “It’s a new year, new challenge.”
Texas has played a lot of close games this season, especially at home. The Longhorns are 10-3 at home this year, with those three losses coming to Kansas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
With Oklahoma State’s loss to Kansas on Wednesday, the Wildcats have to keep winning to keep pace with the Jayhawks in the conference race.
K-State coach Bruce Weber said Texas won’t make it easy for them.
“It’s a huge game for us just to stay in the race,” he said. “It’s a winnable game, but it’s not going to be an easy game. You have to go earn it. That’s a team that almost beat Kansas there.
“Up until our game they had been really close with everybody, and then we kind of zapped them and they’ve been hit a couple times here in this stretch.”
K-State players said they aren’t worried about getting over confident in the situation they are in, with three tough road games left on the docket. After the game at Texas this weekend, they play at Baylor and at Oklahoma State over the next two weekends.
McGruder said they are focusing on one game at a time, and that starts with Texas on Saturday. And he said the result of the first game doesn’t mean anything with the team going on the road.
“You just have to look at film and see the things you were successful at and just try to keep those things within the game and within the concepts,” he said. “You have to just play with confidence and try to come out with the win.”
Weber admitted on Wednesday after practice that he is still learning things about his team everyday, including the way they will react from situation to situation.
He said he remains amazed at the ways the team finds motivations to win in each individual game.
“I still don’t know them well enough and sometimes they surprise me,” Weber said. “They’re not very vocal, but they have that inner-drive, which is important. I talk to them a lot of times about motivation, and that the true good teams are self-motivated and push themselves.”
Where to find the Longhorn Network
Saturday’s game will be exclusive to the Longhorn Network, and might not be available through all cable/satellite providers.
The Longhorn Network is available on Cox channel 272 as well as AT&T U-Verse in the state of Kansas. The game is not available on ESPN3 or K-StateHD.TV.