Maybe ugly basketball floors make for ugly basketball games. K-State’s 66-59 loss to TCU on Tuesday night certainly qualifies.
The Wildcats (20-10, 9-8 Big 12) turned the ball over 19 times and forced TCU (21-9, 9-8) into 16 giveaways. TCU scored only 66 points, 18 below their season average, while K-State failed to break 60 for the 6th time in the past 10 games. Also ugly: two four-minute scoring droughts for K-State, both of which resulted in the Wildcats surrendering leads to the Horned Frogs.
Thing is, K-State usually wants the ugly game, thrives in the contests played in the muck of the 50s and 60s. But because it was the sloppier of the two teams Tuesday night, the formula did not work in Fort Worth.
K-State’s biggest lead of the second half was 44-39, at the 14:14 mark. It looked as if the ‘Cats might assert themselves, as TCU struggled to slow Dean Wade. But K-State got stuck on 46 points for 2:33 of game time, and on 48 for 3:28, while TCU surged ahead, 52-48 with 8:33 to play.
After the Wildcats pulled ahead, 48-47, on a Barry Brown lay-up with 11:04 to play, that old bugaboo—the scoring drought—reared its ugly head. K-State had five empty possessions, punctuated by a missed point-blank lay-up by Levi Stockard, a turnover by Makol Mawien and a charging foul by Barry Brown. TCU capitalized with a 5-0 mini-run to go up 52-48. The drought finally ended with a nice baseline reverse by—who else?—Dean Wade.
Wade, bucking the evening’s trend, was efficient (10-14 from the field) and tried to will his team to victory. For long periods, Wade and Brown alternated carrying the load for K-State.
Little stretches often decide close games, and that proved true in the contest tonight. After sitting several minutes with four fouls, Brown re-entered the game late, but committed turnovers on consecutive possessions. The miscues led to a TCU dunk and a Brodziansky three-pointer inside the two-minute mark, and another K-State turnover and foul allowed TCU to extend its lead to 62-56 with 1:30 to play. A late Diarra three—his only make of the night—was not enough to extend the intrigue.
Makol Mawien was not able to replicate his stellar 18-point performance in the teams’ first match-up. He also got lost defensively on numerous occasions and twice was called for costly traveling violations. But he had his moments, too. He did a good job slowing Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU’s leading scorer, holding the senior to only three field goal attempts and seven points. He also drove for a dunk at a moment in the second half when K-State simply had to have something from someone other than Wade.
Freshman Cartier Diarra struggled, contributing a rebound and a couple of steals, but only three points and five turnovers. Perhaps his freshman wall has hit later than most, since he was pressed into meaningful service only after league play started. K-State desperately needs him to find his mojo again, because it is clear Kamau Stokes is far less than 100% physically.
Xavier Sneed appeared to have emerged over the last several games as a reliable across-the-board contributor. Against the Horned Frogs, he finished with only two points on 1-6 shooting. He did collect seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. But on a night when points came at a premium, he was unable to produce.
Wade led the Wildcats, scoring 24 on 10-14 shooting. He added five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Brown had 17 points and six assists, offset by five turnovers, before fouling out. Mawien scored nine and had four rebounds. The rest of the K-State roster (excluding Wade, Brown and Mawien) managed a total of nine points.
Kenrich Williams and Desmond Bane led TCU with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
K-State finds itself in doubtful territory after this loss. Senior night against Baylor looms large as they try to cement themselves as a tournament team. Do you get any extra motivation when your only senior is a walk-on?
Three in the Key
- This was a gettable game that just got away. Close games are always painful to lose, especially when the game was there for the taking despite the team not giving its best effort. This was light years from the Wildcats’ best effort. A play here and a play there—even something as simple as cleaning up a lazy pass or two—could have changed the outcome. The squad did not do it, so it did not get the win.
- Dean and Barry can’t do it all. Wade seemed unstoppable a times, but when Brown sat with foul trouble, it allowed Jamie Dixon to send double-teams at him. Dean did not panic, but it was just effective enough to slow his production before he could adjust. It did not help that he lacked a reliable teammate to utilize as an outlet. Batman and Robin alone are not going to be enough, sometimes. Someone else must contribute in a meaningful way if K-State is going to score enough points to win. At the very least, the supporting cast must play defense, rebound, and take care of the ball. Sneed rebounded, and Mawien scored and rebounded some. Outside of that, none of them distinguished themselves in this game.
- Kamau Stokes is trying really hard, but he just doesn’t have his legs. Doctors say he will not aggravate the injury by playing, and it’s great that Kam wants to contribute, even in a bench-player’s role. But everything just looks off with his game. His shot is not there, and even handling the ball looks spotty. If he could recover some spring and hit some shots, it would provide a gigantic boost to the team’s postseason prospects.