Michael Beasley had a season for the ages for Kansas State. Denis Clemente made his mark with a game the Wildcats won’t soon forget.
The Kansas State guard tied Beasley’s year-old Big 12 single-game record with 44 points, leading the Wildcats to an 85-81 overtime upset of No. 11 Texas on Saturday.
Beasley was an All-American as a freshman last season before turning pro. Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, sat out last season after transferring from Miami. He hadn’t scored more than 20 points for the Wildcats this season before scorching the Longhorns with 13-of-25 shooting, making all six of his 3-pointers and all 12 of his free throws.
All of his 3-pointers came in the second half.
“I need to score to win,” Clemente said. “It felt like there was an ocean in that rim.”
Kansas State has won three in a row after an 0-4 start in league play. Coach Frank Martin credits much of the turnaround to the leadership and play of Clemente, who had been suspended at Miami at the end of the 2006-2007 season for a violation of team rules.
“He’s taken this team, like he should because he’s our most experienced player, by the horns here and just led us,” Martin said. “Especially after the tough times.”
It almost wasn’t enough Saturday. Despite not being able to stop Clemente from scoring just about everywhere on the court, Texas rallied from 17 points down in the second half to send the game into overtime.
Not that Texas didn’t try to stop him. Coach Rick Barnes threw a bevy of players at Clemente, only to watch him tire out the Longhorns one by one. Clemente’s 44 points were the most scored on the Longhorns in 32 seasons on their home court.
“He put on a show,” Barnes said.
Texas players were stunned by the scoring outburst.
“I knew coming in he was a good player, but nobody expects him to drop 44 on you,” said Texas guard A.J. Abrams, who set his own Big 12 mark for career 3-pointers. Abrams made four, breaking the record of 338 he shared with Kansas’ Jeff Boschee (1999-2002).
Abrams fouled out early in overtime and his long-range shooting wasn’t available late when Texas needed a big shot. Damion James scored 19 points to lead the Longhorns, but scored just two in the extra period.
Kansas State (14-7, 3-4) could have put the game away early. Sloppy play by Texas—20 turnovers in all—and Clemente’s hot shooting made it look like it would be a rout. The Wildcats led 63-46 with 7:01 to play before Texas rallied. Abrams hit a 3-pointer, converted a three-point play and then struck again from long range as the Longhorns cut it to 69-64 with 3:01 left.
Withering ball pressure by Texas defenders in fullcourt and halfcourt traps, and misfires by Kansas State shooters, kept the comeback going on a steady pace. The Longhorns finally made it 74-74 when Justin Mason powered over Jacob Pullen in the lane for a layup with 9 seconds left.
Clemente had a chance to win it in regulation but his off-balance shot was too long.
Kansas State opened overtime with four straight points on free throws by Clemente and a layup by Ron Anderson, before Texas answered with baskets from James and Mason.
When Texas’ Gary Johnson tied it 79-79, it was assumed Clemente—an 84 percent free throw shooter—would get the ball. But Clemente told Martin that the Longhorns would send two men at him, leaving Fred Brown open.
“You know he’s on top of things when he’s telling me what to do,” Martin said.
Time was winding down when Brown let go of a long 3-pointer with 4 seconds left on the shot clock for an 82-79 lead with 18.6 seconds to play.
“It’s crunch time. You’ve got to make plays,” Brown said.
Brown said he didn’t think Texas players took the Wildcats seriously before the game.
“This game shows we’re a team to be reckoned with all year,” he said.
Texas seemed shocked by the home loss. The Longhorns had won 19 in a row at the Frank Erwin Center, the fourth-longest streak in the country.
“It’s not the end of the world,” James said. “This might be the game that it takes to put a spark under us.”