The stars came out to play on Monday night as a pair of National Player of the Year candidates squared off. Texas' D.J. Augustin put in 24 points and five assists while Kansas State's Michael Beasley rocked the rim time and again, scoring 30 points and grabbing 15 boards.
Unfortunately for Kansas State, Beasley's monstrous performance comprised almost half of the Wildcats' points as KSU fell at home to the No. 5 Longhorns, 74-65.
Texas moves to 24-4 on the season, 11-2 in Big 12 play, and is inching closer towards securing a No. 1 seed in March's NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns are also one win short of equaling the school record of 25 regular season wins (2005-2006). Kansas State fell to 18-9 and 8-5 in conference with the loss.
The Horns were in control early, but the Wildcats fought their way back, taking their first lead, 27-26, with 2:01 to go in the first half on a breakaway lay-up from freshman guard Jacob Pullen. The teams went into half knotted up at 30, but the second half was all Texas.
A big reason for the Longhorns' second-half surge was the play of A.J. Abrams. The junior guard didn't score a single point in the first half but put up 13 points in the second. All four of his second half field goals were threes. Abrams four threes also moved him to No. 1 on Texas' all-time list for career three-pointers made, passing Travis Mays (246/1987-90) with 249.
It was also a strong night for center Connor Atchley. The junior big man was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, including a pair of three-pointers, scored 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
One of Texas' few blemishes in the loss was free throw shooting. Consistency from the charity stripe has been a problem at times for Texas this season and the Horns were 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from the free throw line Monday night.
Beasley was once again dominant for Kansas State, but it was tough sledding for the rest of the Wildcats. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward has been lighting up the scoreboard all season, but he's not the only prolific freshman on the roster. Bill Walker is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but was held to only a single point Monday night on 0-of-14 shooting. Walker scored 31 against Baylor in K-State's last game, but his 0-for-14 night against Texas was the worst mark of any player in the country this season.
It was hard for rest of the team to find a bucket as well. Kansas State shot 32.8 percent (22-of-67) in the game, compared to the Horns' 47.4 percent (27-of-57). Aside from Beasley, the only other Wildcat who had success shooting the ball was Pullen, who came off the bench to score 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. But after Beasley and Pullen, the rest of the team combined for just 16 points.
The Longhorns play their next game on the first of March in Lubbock. Texas beat Texas Tech in their last meeting back on January 26th, 73-47, when the Red Raiders were still coached by Bob Knight. Saturday's contest, which tips off at 3:00 p.m. on CBS, will be the Horns' first against Knight's son and now Texas Tech head coach, Pat.