Senior transfer Mareik Isom has largely been an afterthought during a forgettable season for the Longhorns.
Isom missed the first 16 games of the season due to an ankle injury and has sparsely seen the floor in games he’s played since.
But on Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center, Isom played the most minutes he has all season — 16 — and wreaked havoc. He dove for loose balls, grabbed rebounds, blocked a couple shots and knocked down a pair of three pointers in an 8-point effort.
In the end, though, Isom’s spirited outing wasn’t quite enough as Texas fell to Kansas State, 64-61.
“I thought (Isom) was by far the hardest-playing guy on the floor,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought it really, really helped us (and) gave us energy.”
Isom, an Austin Bowie High School product who transferred to Texas in the off-season from Arkansas-Little Rock, decided to come back home to finish out his college career. Isom never envisioned this season turning out like this, but he has embraced it every step of the way.
“I’ve been through a lot this year, but I didn’t want to let it get me down,” Isom said. “It’s been tough at times, especially with the foot and the losses. But other than that, it’s been everything I could dream of.”
The Longhorns (10–17, 4–10 Big 12) left the court with heartbreak yet again.
“It’s really hard, especially for the seniors,” senior guard Kendal Yancy said. “We just got to be able to respond after losses. There’s still hope.”
The Longhorns looked lifeless and the home crowd appeared to be in an afternoon siesta during the opening seven minutes of the second half.
But then Kansas State senior forward Austin Budke gave Texas and the fans a reason to wake up. As Texas trailed 48-39, Budke delivered a hard foul to Allen in the lane. Allen fell awkwardly to the floor and both teams engaged in a brief scuffle.
Budke was assessed a flagrant-two and ejected from the game, while Texas junior transfer Dylan Osetkowski and junior transfer Isaiah Hobbs were also tossed for coming off
“It kind of fired us up a little bit,” Yancy said. “We thought that was kind of a harsh foul. We took that as a little bit of motivation.”
Allen proceeded to hit 1-of-2 free throws. An ensuing three-pointer from Isom followed by his huge block on the other end gave way to an eruption from the crowd, cutting Kansas State’s lead to 48-43. Moments later, Texas had cut the deficit to 48-46.
Down the stretch, freshman guard Andrew Jones tied the game twice — once at 57 after a fadeaway three and then again at 59 with 1:34 to play after a monster transition dunk.
Freshman forward Jarrett Allen’s layup, with 19 seconds left, tied the game again, 61-61.
On the ensuing possession for Kansas State, senior forward D.J. Johnson had a put-back tip-in and was fouled with 1.6 seconds left. Johnson hit the and-one free throw, and sophomore guard Kerwin Roach Jr.’s full-court heave at the buzzer fell short.
Up next for Texas is a difficult road matchup with No. 9 West Virginia Monday at 8 p.m. The Longhorns lost a tough contest with the Mountaineers earlier this season in Austin, 74-72.