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Final: No. 12 Texas Tech 73, K-State 68

Close again. Short again. Just not quite good enough.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas Tech
Ish Massoud played his most inspired game in weeks. But the Wildcats still fell short in Lubbock.
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State gave up the last six points of the game to the Texas Tech Red Raiders and fell 73-68 Monday night in Lubbock.

Without the services of point guard and offensive initiator Markquis Nowell, the Wildcats (14-15, 6-11 Big 12) put up a game effort, leading by as many as 9 points early. They weathered a 12-0 run by Texas Tech (23-7, 12-5) to close the first half. They fought back from 8 down to take a 1-point lead with 1:25 to play. But then, as has been their habit lately, they stopped scoring.

Tech’s Davion Warren got a friendly bounce on a midrange jumper that looked to be short. After Mike McGuirl missed a three-point attempt, he read an entry pass along the baseline at the defensive end and appeared to have a clean steal. He was whistled for a foul, however, and Tech’s Adonis Arms made both free throws to extend the Red Raider lead to 71-68 with only 25 seconds remaining.

Nijel Pack tried to find space for a three-point attempt right of the key and appeared to absorb a hard bump. But nothing was called, the shot was blocked, and Warren made two more free throws for the final 73-68 margin.

K-State failed to make a field goal over the last 3:55, and if the Cats are looking for things to lament (there were plenty), they could point to that and to a handful of fast break attempts that they failed to finish through aggressive challenges at the rim. They could also acknowledge failure to execute offensively at the end of both halves, where the Raiders outscored them by a combined 18-zip before the two buzzers.

Tech’s strategy to double Pack and force others to beat them nearly backfired. McGuirl and Ismael Massoud both started hot and staked K-State to a 23-14 lead midway through the first half. But the Cats were outscored 21-6 over the last 8:32 of the period to squander the lead. When Tech’s Warren nailed a three-point bucket to close the half, the Raiders had a 39-31 lead at the break.

If you’re big on moral victories, K-State played excellent basketball to recover and take a lead again. They also lost by the narrowest margin of any opponent to visit United Supermarkets Arena, bettering the 8-point margin of Tech’s victory over Kansas.

By now, we’re past moral victories. It has been a season of “not quite.” And “not quite” is not good enough.

McGuirl led four Wildcats in double figures, scoring 18. Selton Miguel had 14, Pack 13, and Mark Smith 11.

Massoud finished with 8 points on only five shots, and he collected 4 steals.

Tech’s Bryson Williams led all scorers, pouring in 23.

No “Three in the Key tonight.” As a volunteer fan writing recaps solely for intrinsic rewards, I’m just not invested enough to find anything interesting or clever to say after yet another golden opportunity horseshoed around late and fell away, wasted.