MANHATTAN, Kan. – Rodney McGruder scored a career high 33 points, including a transition dunk in the closing seconds, and No. 25 Kansas State beat Texas 84-80 on Wednesday night despite lousy foul shooting down the stretch.
McGruder also added eight rebounds for the Wildcats (13-4, 2-3 Big 12) while playing superb defense on the Longhorns' J'Covan Brown, who came into the game leading the Big 12 in scoring.
Brown finished with 22 points for Texas (12-6, 2-3), but the junior guard was just 8 of 28 from the field and 4 of 14 from beyond the arc.
Brown hit one of those 3s with 53.6 seconds left, drawing Texas to 80-76. He added another basket after Will Spradling made one of two foul shots to make it 81-78.
On the Wildcats' next trip down court, Angel Rodriguez missed a pair of free throws and McGruder, a 76 percent foul shooter, also missed a pair.
Sheldon McLellan's dunk at the other end made it 81-80 with 20.3 seconds left, but after Spradling knocked down the second of two free throws, Texas freshman Myck Kabongo turned it over and McGruder threw down his dunk to seal it.
Jamar Samuels had 14 points, while Spradling and Thomas Gipson added 11 each for Kansas State.
McClellan finished with 19 points for Texas, taking some of the pressure off Brown. Kabongo had 14 points, and Clint Chapman added 11 before fouling out in the closing minutes. Kansas State threatened to put the game away early.
McGruder hit his first five shots, three of them 3-pointers, and Samuels asserted himself in the paint as the Wildcats pushed out to a 36-21 lead. McGruder was also getting it done on defense, frustrating Brown on the perimeter and forcing the Longhorns' other guards to score.
The complexion of the game changed with 8 1/2 minutes left when McGruder picked up his second foul and took a seat on the bench.
The Longhorns launched a 19-2 run to take their first lead of the game.
Kabongo got it started with a field goal and Chapman scored the next seven points before McClellan got into the act. His shot from close range made it 36-32 with 4:22 left.
Kansas State finally ended a nearly 7-minute scoreless drought when McGruder checked back in and scored with 1:48 left in the half, putting the Wildcats ahead 41-40. Victor Ojeleye's put-back in the final minute sent the Wildcats into the locker room leading 43-42.
The game went back and forth the entire second half, neither team able to put together a run like they did in the first half. The biggest lead after the break was seven points.
If ever a mid-January matchup was critical to a team, it may have been to Kansas State.
Coach Frank Martin's team has stumbled at the start of Big 12 play for the third time in four years, though part of that had to do with the schedule. The Wildcats faced highly ranked teams in Missouri, Baylor and Kansas in succession, all of them expected to contend for the title.
Texas also finds itself under pressure now.
With the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, the 10-team Big 12 will have a reconfigured conference tournament. The top six seeds will have byes into the quarterfinals.