MANHATTAN — This one seemed destined to be close, but Barry Brown had other ideas.
Entering Wednesday night’s matchup, the previous five games between Kansas State and Texas had been decided by a total of 13 points. That included a three-point Wildcat win just 14 days earlier.
So as the game ticked inside the final five minutes, few were surprised to see the teams tied, locked in yet another cliffhanger.
But from the time Brown converted an and-one play at the 4:16 mark, he alone was in complete control. Brown’s driving shot and ensuing free throw fueled an impressive 16-4 closing run that featured 14 points from the junior guard and sent K-State to a 58-48 victory at Bramlage Coliseum.
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 20-8 overall, 9-6 in the Big 12 and took another big step toward securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“My teammates were just telling me to stay in attack mode and finish the game,” Brown said.
He did exactly that, finishing Texas (16-12, 6-9) in the process.
After Brown banked home his key and-one basket to give K-State a 47-44 cushion, he flexed both biceps while sitting underneath the goal. It was a fitting gesture from a player who simply proved too strong for the Longhorns.
“He was great down the stretch,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “Our guys had done a nice job on him for about 35 minutes. He did what veterans that are good leaders do. At the end of the game it did not matter that he hadn’t put up big numbers to that point. He showed that he was going to go make a play for his team.”
Xavier Sneed followed Brown’s three-point play with a huge offensive rebound and pair of free throws before Brown added four more points to cap an 11-0 spurt that put K-State up 53-44.
Texas’ Eric Davis halted K-State’s run, but Brown wasn’t done responding. He hit another layup at the 1:22 mark, and his 3-pointer from the key with 22.3 seconds remaining put an exclamation point on the victory.
“You win games when you’ve got older players that make plays,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “He’s been through it. He’s learned. He’s matured. He’s much more confident.”
Dean Wade added 13 points for the Wildcats, Cartier Diarra pitched in 12 and the Sneed pulled down 13 rebounds to help K-State outrebound an opponent for the second straight game. The Wildcats also tormented the Longhorns with their defense, limiting the visitors to 28.6 percent shooting (16 for 56).
“Obviously our defense has been really hooked up,” Weber said. “The guys have been really locked in.”
That effort allowed K-State to claim its third straight win and fourth in five games despite shooting only 41.7 percent, a figure that was significantly worse before Brown’s closing heroics.
Matt Coleman scored 14 points to pace Texas. Mo Bamba, the Longhorns’ disruptive 7-foot freshman, battled through a minor foot injury but managed only nine points and six rebounds.
“Obviously he wasn’t himself,” Smart said.
K-State went into halftime tied for the fourth time in five games, thanks in part to a late foul call against Brown that drew a chorus of boos from the Bramlage crowd. Brown was ruled to have fouled Texas’ Kerwin Roach on a last-second 3-point attempt despite getting plenty of ball on the play.
Roach made two of his three foul shots to draw the Longhorns even at 25-25.
Given the Wildcats’ struggles from the field, they were somewhat fortunate to be tied at the break. K-State hit only 8 of 28 overall attempts and 2 of 8 3-pointers in the first half.
The Wildcats stayed close, though, with a strong defensive effort that forced seven turnovers and limited Texas to 10-of-24 shooting.
K-State trailed 16-13 after missing 15 of its first 19 shots, but when Diarra hit two free throws at the 7:33 mark, it kick-started an 11-5 run that gave the Wildcats a 24-21 advantage at the final media timeout. The run featured five straight points in a 30-second span against Texas’ 2-3 zone, a layup from Levi Stockard followed by a 3-pointer from the wing from Sneed.
K-State maintained a small cushion until Roach’s late free throws.