Booker scores 17, Holle's 3 helps No. 6 Texas beat No. 16 K-State 71-64 in Big 12 semifinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Texas coach Vic Schaefer had watched Kansas State wipe away a 14-point lead, pulling ahead in the fourth quarter of their Big 12 Tournament semifinal, and he knew the outcome would be decided by who made the biggest plays down the stretch.

Madison Booker made some of them. Shay Holle made the biggest.

The senior guard from Austin, Texas, drained a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with just over a minute to go Monday, and the sixth-ranked Longhorns held on from there for a 71-64 victory that sent them into a title game rematch with Iowa State.

“I've played them every year I've been here. We'll be excited to be in that game,” said Schaefer, whose team lost to the Cyclones in the finale a year ago. “These kids deserve it. They've had their fair share of trials and challenges throughout the season, and to be where they are today is just remarkable, and I couldn't be more proud of them.”

Booker finished with 17 points, Aaliyah Moore added 14 and Holle scored 11 for the No. 2 seed Longhorns (29-4), who led most of the way before finding themselves behind 57-55 with four minutes to go — and a partisan crowd rooting against them.

Booker answered with a bucket to tie the game, and it was still knotted 61-all when Holle hit her 3 from the wing. She added another basket off a nifty inbound play moments later, giving Texas a five-point lead it would never relinquish.

“We've been together so long. We've been through this before,” said the Longhorns' DeYona Gaston. “We try, in the heat of the moment, to calm each other down. We don't hang our heads low.”

Ayoka Lee had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the third-seeded Wildcats (25-7), who have not played for the Big 12 tourney title since 2005. Serena Sundell added 12 points but also had six of their 17 turnovers.

“We played well enough to win. We just came up on the short end,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought it was an outstanding, physical, competitive game. We fought back and played hard and did a lot of really good things.”

Texas and Kansas State split the regular-season series with each winning at home, and despite a big contingent of Wildcat fans at the T-Mobile Center, the Longhorns played the first half as if they were the ones with the home-court advantage.

They played most of the way without Booker, too, after she picked up two fouls just seven minutes into the game.

Shaylee Gonzales helped by drilling a pair of 3-pointers, and Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda had a couple of big baskets off the bench, as the Longhorns built a 24-14 lead by the end of the first quarter. Then, Moore started heating up in the second, helping the regular-season Big 12 runner-ups take a 38-30 lead into the locker room.

It could have been more if not for Lee, who had 18 of the Wildcats' first-half points.

Kansas State slowly ate away at its deficit in the third quarter, even as Booker scored on three straight possessions, and finally wiped out what had been an early 14-point advantage on Brylee Glenn's 3-pointer with four minutes to go.

But the Longhorns showed their mettle in the closing minutes, and Holle and Co. made the plays that mattered the most.

“I thought our kids were who they are, which is, they're just tough, y'all," Schaefer said. "This group is unlike any team I can remember in a long time. They're just gritty and tough and they can make plays.”


Texas meets Iowa State for the title. The Longhorns beat Baylor for the championship in 2022 and also won the title in '03.

Kansas State waits to see whether its NCAA Tournament seeding is good enough to host any games.

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