KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Something is about to happen to the proud Texas basketball program that hasn't happened in 15 years.
The Longhorns, with a 16-17 record, will probably be sitting out the NCAA tournament. Since he arrived on the sprawling Texas campus, head coach Rick Barnes has taken the Longhorns to the NCAAs 14 years in a row.
But a lackluster 66-49 loss to No. 11 Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday night probably means the school-record NCAA run is done.
"I've always said that's something we've never taken for granted," said Barnes. "I certainly haven't. People act like it's easy to get there. I don't think it's easy to get there. We've had some times when we knew we were in, other times when we had to sweat it out. I'm disappointed, but you know what? You are who you are. We weren't good enough to make the NCAA tournament this year."
It was the Longhorns' third loss this year to the Wildcats.
"We weren't good enough because if we were good enough, we'd be in it," said Barnes.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State's all-conference senior, scored 24 points for the Wildcats.
"It all starts with our fans, how much they support us," said McGruder. "They push us to so hard, we know what we're doing is not only for ourselves but also the Manhattan (Kan.) community. It just feels good to do big things for our community."
McGruder, who ranks in the top 10 in 14 of Kansas State's career categories, also had a team-high seven rebounds for the second-seeded Wildcats (26-6).
Julien Lewis scored 13 points and Jonathan Holmes had 10 for Texas (16-17), which trailed almost the entire game.
"I'm disappointed," said Barnes. "I think when you have high expectations in anything you're going to be disappointed. I think we could have won this game today. I think we could have won this tournament. But we didn't because we made the same mistakes we made in two other games with them. We helped them out. And they don't need any help."
The Wildcats, who tied No. 7 Kansas for their first regular-season conference title since 1977, will face No. 14 Oklahoma State in the semifinals Friday night.
"It's a good win," said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, whose shooters spent most of the game trying to solve the Texas zone defense.
"I told the guys I thought they would play zone," said Weber. "So it wasn't unexpected. And when you saw that starting lineup, you knew they were going to do it."
The Wildcats held a 43-36 lead midway through the second half when McGruder's one-handed floater ignited the run that put the game out of reach. A moment later, the 6-4 senior stole the ball at midcourt, drew a foul and then connected on a 3-pointer over the Longhorns' zone defense. D.J. Johnson followed with a dunk and McGruder added a pair of 3-pointers.
McGruder's 10 field goals tied the school record for a conference tournament game.
"We're living into the second day," said Weber. "Now let's see if we can get to the championship."
Sheldon McClellan and Lewis hit back-to-back 3-pointers after Kansas State's 11-0 run to cut the lead to 58-47, but that was as close as the Longhorns would get.
McGruder stole the ball near the Texas basket in the final minute before the break and hit a 3-pointer for a 34-28 halftime lead. A few seconds earlier, D.J. Johnon had tipped in a miss after Jonathan Holmes' three-point play sliced Kansas State's lead to 29-28.
Longhorns point guard Myck Kabongo, who scored 24 points in Kansas State's 81-69 victory at Texas, had seven assists but was 0 for 5 from the floor and scored only two points. Since returning from a 23-game NCAA suspension, the 6-1 sophomore had led the Longhorns with nearly 16 points a game.
Angel Rodriguez had 13 points and five assists for Kansas State.
The Wildcats, who swept two games against Texas in the regular season, fell behind early but seized the lead when the Longhorns turned the ball over on three straight possessions and left Will Spradling all alone for a 3-pointer.
The Sprint Center Arena, brimming with purple-clad Kansas State fans, erupted in a loud cheer near the end of the game when popular football coach Bill Snyder was shown on the big electronic board sitting in the stands. The cheers became deafening when the always-reserved Snyder, prompted by the public address announcer, kissed his wife on the cheek.
The victory continues what's been a banner sports year for the Wildcats, who produced a Heisman Trophy finalist, conference championships in both football and basketball and garnered Big 12 coach of the year honors for both Snyder and Weber.
The Longhorns closed the game on an 8-0 run, including another bucket by McGruder.