A share of first place in the rugged Big 12 Conference is on the line Saturday as No. 10 Texas travels to Manhattan, Kan., to face No. 7 Kansas State in a matinee contest.
Texas (18-4, 7-2 Big 12) sits alone in first place coming into the game, but K-State (18-4, 6-3) is one of four teams just a game back at the midway point of the conference season.
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With a win, the Longhorns will assure themselves of maintaining the top spot and maybe open a little cushion with many of their closest pursuers. A win by Texas would give the Longhorns a split of the season series with the Wildcats.
A win by the Wildcats would give them a share of the lead and allow them to sweep the season series with Texas for the first time since 2018. K-State defeated Texas 116-103 in January in the highest-scoring game in Kansas State history.
Texas is riding a three-game conference winning streak, and the Longhorns have won six of their last seven league games since falling to K-State. Their 18-4 record through 22 games is their best since starting the 2010-11 season 19-3.
Sir’Jabari Rice has scored a season-high 21 points in each of the last two games. He hit 13 of 23 (.565) field-goal attempts, including 7 of 14 (.500) from 3-point range in those two games. He was 5 of 7 on field goals, including 4 of 5 3-pointers and 7 of 8 free throws in Monday’s win over No. 11 Baylor.
Texas is led by Marcus Carr with 16.7 points per game. He’s joined in double figures by Rice (11.0), Timmy Allen (10.8) and Tyrese Hunter (10.3).
Interim coach Rodney Terry knows that first place in early February doesn’t mean a thing compared to mid-March.
“It’s the Big 12, man, it’s a monster now, every night,” he said after the win over Baylor. “You did it for one night (but) it’s on to the next, challenging a really good opponent that’s well-coached. We’ve got great coaches in this league and great players in this league. We’ve worked really hard to get in this position, and we know we’ve got to continue to take it one game at a time.”
The only team to beat Texas at the brand-new Moody Center is Kansas State. The Wildcats are coming off a 90-78 loss at No. 8 Kansas on Tuesday. The Jayhawks raced out to an early lead and cruised in the second half.
“I thought in the first half they were locked in and made all the hustle plays,” Kansas State coach Jerome Tang said. “In (an) environment like this, you don’t win a game in the first half, but you can certainly lose it. I thought they did what they needed to do to get the crowd involved. They did a better job than us tonight and all the credit in the world goes to them tonight.”
The Wildcats were led by the duo of Markquis Nowell (23 points) and Keyontae Johnson (22), but the Wildcats shot a season-low 33.9 percent from the field. Johnson leads the Wildcats with 18.2 points per game, while Nowell scores 17.1 per contest. Nae’Qwan Tomlin (10.5) is the only other Wildcat averaging double figures.
–Field Level Media
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