Kansas State can breathe — for now.
The Wildcats escaped with a 75-74 road win over TCU Wednesday night, keeping their faint, but very feasible, NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
K-State’s offense was far from perfect in the win, but the Wildcats looked like much more rejuvenated, reinvigorated and reenergized than they did in their 30-point loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
Particularly, K-State navigated TCU’s defense smoothly at times. Dean Wade tallied a game-best 20 points, Wesley Iwundu totaled 16 points, and D.J. Johnson seemed a man possessed under the basket and posted 12 points.
Here’s how it happened.
K-State 28, TCU 22 — first half, 6:50.
TCU is in a 2-3 zone here, and Iwundu swings the ball back around to the top of the key. As soon as he releases this pass, he repositions himself in a soft spot of the zone, catches a pass, pivots and pulls up for a smooth jumper.
K-State 34, TCU 29 — first half, 2:00.
Four minutes later, the Horned Frogs have switched to a man defense. Wade recognizes this and swings it to Iwundu on the left wing, using a slip screen on his way across the court. Both Horned Frogs follow Iwundu to the basket as a result, leaving Wade wide open for his second 3 of the night.
K-State 46, TCU 39 — second half, 15:00.
Now with its lead whittled, K-State uses a simple pick and roll here. Kamau Stokes dribbles off a high screen set by Isaiah Maurice, who rolls to the basket and finishes the play.
K-State 48, TCU 41 — second half, 13:53.
A minute and a half later, the shot clock is ticking on this possession for K-State. Maurice again sets a pick, this time for Carlbe Ervin, who shovels it across to Barry Brown on the wing. The pass draws three different TCU players outside the paint, though, leaving Maurice open around the basket. The freshman uses the rim as a shield to finish the layup.
K-State 50, TCU 49 — second half, 10:41.
TCU had just drilled a 3 on the possession previous, cutting the deficit to just one. That’s when, on K-State’s next possession, Ervin dribbles on the right wing and passes to Stokes, whose dribble-drive draws a host of TCU defenders. The only Horned Frog in the vicinity to defend Brown is Jaylen Fisher, who is late to contest the trey. Extra points to Brown for the extended form-hold.
K-State 53, TCU 49 — second half, 8:51.
There’s no other way to put it — Johnson bullies his defender here. He backs him down from the free-throw line all the way inside the restricted area, finishing the play for an and-one.
K-State 64, TCU 63 — second half, 2:29.
K-State is clinging to a one-point lead now, and the shot clock is at 1 when Iwundu hoists a jumper. Wade positions himself perfectly on the shot, pulls down a one-handed rebound, pivots and lofts the stickback through the nylon.
K-State 66, TCU 65 — second half, 1:30.
Again up just one, K-State needs a bucket here. After a swing pass, Wade again uses a slip screen to get open in the corner. But this time he hesitates, as Fisher recovers on the switch in time to guard him. No matter — Wade pulls up in Fisher’s face and drills the triple.
K-State 69, TCU 65 — second half, 1:12.
This isn’t K-State offense; rather, a critical block from Johnson. TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky — Johnson’s man — begins to drift to the perimeter as Alex Robinson starts to drive, but Johnson stays put in the lane when he sees Robinson begin his descent into the lane. Johnson slides over, jumps and denies a potential layup that would have cut the K-State lead to two.
All in all, a gritty road win for K-State — but you can relive the whole thing in Luke Thompson’s recap.