In the single-elimination crucible of the NCAA basketball postseason, it’s well known that one out-of-character night can spoil, and end, a tournament run.
Thursday night at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, it wasn’t the Kansas State Wildcats who were out of character, but rather, their opponents, TCU. However, it was the kind of out of character that favored the Horned Frogs.
The Big 12’s worst three-point shooting team rained fire from behind the arc to the tune of 11 made triples and sent the Wildcats home early from the Big 12 Basketball Championship tournament with an 80-67 win.
Mike Miles and Chuck O’Bannon Jr. led the way for the Horned Frogs with 22 points apiece. Each made four of TCU’s 11 threes, which was a season-high total for the team. The Horned Frogs came into the game shooting just under 30 percent from three on the season, but made 44 percent of their 25 attempts on the night.
K-State came out firing in front of a large contingent of their fans in Kansas City, sprinting to an 11-2 lead, but TCU would respond with an 11-2 run of their own to tie the score at 13 apiece. The lead would ping-pong back and forth for the better part of the half before TCU took control with a 7-0 run that put them ahead 35-27. K-State trimmed that deficit to just five at 37-32 by the time the halftime horn sounded.
The Wildcats would get as close as two points on two occasions early in the second half, but a 10-2 TCU run gave them their first double-digit lead at 54-44 with 13 minutes remaining. The next four field goals for TCU were all threes, two apiece from Miles and O’Bannon, giving them a 66-51 edge with just under ten minutes remaining. K-State got no closer than 11 the rest of the way, and Keyontae Johnson fouled out with six minutes left, realistically ending any hopes of a Wildcat rally.
Johnson and Desi Sills led the Wildcats with 14 points apiece. Markquis Nowell added 11 points but was just 1-of-9 from three-point range, part of a dismal 23.3 percent (7-30) showing for K-State from deep. Nae’Qwan Tomlin was the fourth Wildcat in double-figures, chipping in 10 points.
Turnovers hurt the Wildcats, as they coughed up possession 20 times in the defeat leading to 20 TCU points. It was the fifth time this season K-State has turned the ball over 20 or more times.
“You can’t win a game with 20 turnovers,” Nowell said. “We just have to take better care of the ball. We’ve got to find ways to move the ball and play how we know how to play.”
“I didn’t do a good enough job preparing these guys for how physical teams play in this Big 12 Tournament,” Wildcats head coach Jerome Tang said. “That will not happen again.”
K-State finishes with a 23-9 record and awaits their fate on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, TCU will face second-seed Texas at 8:30 tomorrow night in the second of two Big 12 Basketball Championship semifinals. The winner of that one will play either Kansas or Iowa State in the final on Saturday.