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Wildcats Choke Away Opportunity: TCU 60, K-State 57

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The closing 1:11 was agonizing. And familiar, by now.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas State
Nowell was at times incredible. But the Wildcats still faltered late and lost to TCU.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State led TCU much of the evening Wednesday night in Bramlage Coliseum, only to fall behind by 10 points early in the second half. Though the Wildcats (8-7, 0-4 Big 12) swung momentum back so completely that they held a 5-point lead with 1:11 remaining in the contest, they collapsed late, allowing TCU (11-2, 1-1 Big 12) an 8-0 run to steal a 60-57 victory on the Cats’ home floor.

How complete was the collapse? Unmitigated disaster would be the best description.

You could say it actually began at the 2:17 mark, when Markquis Nowell (who was mostly a bright spot, otherwise) missed the front end of 1-and-1 with the Cats leading 55-52. After Nowell made a lay-up to make the score 57-52, Mark Smith also missed the front end of 1-and-1. The lid would remain on the basket the rest of the way for K-State.

Nowell got a steal and missed a wild try at a lay-up, expecting but not getting a foul call. Selton Miguel rebounded, but had the ball stolen by Emanuel Miller.

After Damian Baugh made one of two free throws to pull TCU within 57-53, Mark Smith had to force up a three-point attempt to beat the shot clock at the 0:42 mark. It missed. TCU’s Mike Miles missed a three-point attempt at the other end, but Emmanuel Miller snagged the rebound and scored to make it a two-point game, 57-55.

TCU called timeout. Then, K-State had to call one when Ismael Massoud caught the inbound pass but had no plan to escape a trap when the referees would not oblige and call a ticky-tack foul (a call the referees actually got right, by the way).

Out of that timeout, Nijel Pack traveled trying to beat another trap. TCU’s Damion Baugh rose up and drilled a three from the right wing—his third of the night and only his fifth of the entire season. Just like that, a 5-point late lead became a 1-point deficit for K-State.

Down 58-57, Davion Bradford caught the ball with momentum going toward the basket, but he could not convert a lay-up or dunk through TCU pressure. Pack fouled. Mike Miles made both free throws. A desperation Nowell heave from 60 feet drew iron but did not go. Final: TCU 60, K-State 57.

Again, how thorough was the collapse? It covered most of the facets that cause teams to lose late. Let’s summarize:

  • Two missed front ends that would have stretched K-State out to a three-possession lead.
  • Failure to either get points or burn clock after a steal and a wild lay-up attempt.
  • Get an offensive rebound, but allow it to be stolen, then foul on defense.
  • Surrender an offensive rebound to allow TCU to cut the margin to two points.
  • Blow the team’s last timeout after getting trapped in the backcourt.
  • Come back on the floor out of the timeout and still fail to execute against pressure in the backcourt. Another turnover.
  • Fail to close out on a shooter who had already made two three-point baskets. He drains another.
  • Miss a good opportunity to steal victory back on a shot in the lane.
  • After being down 5, TCU closed on an 8-0 run over the last 1:11 to hand K-State a three-point loss.

Sure, stuff happened before this, like K-State shooting a sad, uncharacteristic 11-22 from the free throw stripe, and Markquis Nowell scoring 18 points on 7-12 (4-7 from deep) shooting, throwing 5 assists and picking up an incredible 7 steals. We mention those things because they happened. But the last 1:11 was the ballgame. Other moments bear little mention after the gut shot that was the last minute-plus.

Mark Smith and Nijel Pack both scored 10 for K-State. Mike Miles had 19 for the Frogs, on a 6-16 shooting line.

K-State has now wasted career nights by both Nowell (tonight) and Mark Smith (who had 25 points and 16 rebounds at Oklahoma). The Wildcats are alone in last place, the only Big 12 team without a conference win. The maddening part is that they had a real shot to win all four games, but could not close the deal in any of them. Tonight, they flat handed it over to the Horned Frogs.

Getting that zero out of the conference win column in the next four games would require a sizable upset. The Cats face the red hot Red Raiders, who are fresh off wins against both No. 9 Kansas and on the road at No. 1 Baylor, on Saturday morning at 11:00. After that, they play at No. 21 Texas, home against KU, and at current No. 1 Baylor.

If you’re not buckled up after the bumpy ride already we’ve already endured, shame on you. Buckle up. Now.