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K-State falters late on road in 66-65 loss to Texas Tech

The Wildcats had a chance to close things out, but chaos ensued in the final minutes

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Standing at the free throw line with 1:50 remaining Tuesday night in Lubbock, Texas, Kamau Stokes could have changed everything for No. 25 Kansas State.

His Wildcats were clinging to a 62-58 lead over Texas Tech. Two free throws could have put to rest any reasonable possibility of a controversial finish, but his front end of the 1-and-1 clanged off the rim.

What followed included two Red Raider free throws, several chances to question the officiating, but most importantly, a putback from Tech’s Keenan Evans that put the Red Raiders up 63-62, two free throws from Aaron Ross and one foul shot from Niem Stevenson.

Barry Brown hit a desperate 3 at the buzzer, but it was too late. Texas Tech edged K-State, 66-65.

In between all that, though, was where the chaos reigned. After Stokes missed a jumper with 1:11 left, Tech was running its offense on the other end, when Brown was called for a foul:

The foul, however iffy, sent Tech’s Zach Smith to the stripe, where he made 1 of 2 shots. The second rimmed out, but K-State’s D.J. Johnson was ruled to have touched the rebound last as it sailed out of bounds.

The ensuing inbounds play resulted in a Dean Wade foul, his fifth, but Smith missed both his free throws.

On K-State’s following possession, though, Wesley Iwundu lost the ball, and that’s when things began to unwind. Evans took the ball away and raced the other way, sticking back a Stevenson miss that K-State’s Xavier Sneed blocked off the backboard. Tech snatched the lead at 63-62, with just 15 seconds remaining.

K-State bolted the other way following the putback. K-State coach Bruce Weber withheld a timeout call, and Brown drove to the hole for a layup.

He may have been fouled, but nothing was called.

What was called, though, was a technical foul on Weber as he saw Brown go down without a whistle blown. Stevenson connected on both the resulting free throws, Brown nailed the desperation heave at the buzzer, and Texas Tech escaped with a win.

The loss leaves K-State with a myriad of questions, perhaps most confounding that of finishing games. The Wildcats lost in similar fashion Nov. 26 in a 69-68 loss to Maryland, dropped what has now become an infamous game at Kansas Jan. 3 in the final seconds, and most recently, held off Oklahoma Saturday afternoon after the Sooners trimmed a once-16-point K-State lead to six.

The one bright spot on that front for K-State was the Wildcats’ 65-62 win over Texas Dec. 30, when the Longhorns hit all seven of their final shots, but K-State made 9 of its last 10 free throws to withstand the comeback.

Tuesday night is only the latest installment in the saga of K-State’s ability — or lack thereof — to close out games.

Both Johnson and Wade fouled out in the loss, but the outings of both were vital for K-State. Wade didn’t score at all in the first half, but his 12 second-half points, including a pair of triples, helped K-State build a seven-point lead at one point.

Johnson totaled 11 points and seven rebounds, but his foul following Brown’s layup miss sent him to the bench with five fouls.

Stokes was the high-scorer for the Wildcats, tallying 17 points on five 3-pointers, a performance that included five assists as well. Brown and Iwundu each added nine points.

Before the wild ending Tuesday night, though, the Wildcats and Red Raiders found themselves in a seesaw affair.

Both teams came out dry from the field. K-State made just 5 of its first 17 shots, good for a paltry 29 percent, and three turnovers in the first five minutes further damaged its chances.

But the Wildcats hung around, thanks in large part to their 9-for-13 mark from the free throw line in the first stanza. K-State’s deficit peaked at 18-12, but the Wildcats responded with an 11-2 run to claim the lead at 23-20.

From there, the teams exchanged free throws before Stokes canned a pair of 3-balls on his way to 14 points in the first half alone.

K-State took a 31-28 lead into halftime.

Wade’s first basket on the night widened K-State’s lead to 35-30, but as was the theme Tuesday night, Texas Tech responded, this time by way of a Devon Thomas jumper. Iwundu stuck back a miss, though, for a 37-32 K-State lead.

Wade began to heat up soon after. The sophomore forward splashed a triple and jumper on consecutive possessions, the latter of which gave the Wildcats a 44-40 lead with 13:37 to go.

K-State called on Wade’s services minutes later after a 3 from Evans handed Tech the lead with 7:34 left. Wade answered with his own triple, and he threw down a vicious dunk on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession for a 55-51 lead.

What followed was another Evans 3, though, and Tech pulled back within one.

K-State and Texas Tech continued to swap baskets, all the way up to Iwundu’s two free throws at the 2:37 mark that pushed the Wildcats ahead, 62-58.

The rest was chaos.

Evans posted a game-best 18 points for the Red Raiders, followed closely by Smith’s 16 points and seven rebounds. Ross added 10 points for Texas Tech.

The Wildcats drop to 13-3 and 2-2 in Big 12 play with the loss.

K-State now turns its attention to a home matchup Saturday afternoon with No. 1 Baylor, though the Bears will likely lose the top spot after falling to West Virginia Tuesday night.

Following K-State’s win over Oklahoma, Iwundu and Weber said they both appreciated the way their team responded to the controversial ending to the KU loss.

“In the past, we’ve been known to have a pretty bad game after a game like (against) Kansas; let our emotions get to us,” Iwundu said after the win over OU, “but I think we put the last game behind us pretty fast.”

If K-State wants to beat Baylor Saturday, it will likely need more of that attitude.