The Kansas State Wildcats struggled to hold on to the basketball and to make shots in the first half against TCU in Fort Worth. As a result, the No. 11 Wildcats got behind by the widest margin of the season and saw their nine-game winning streak thud to a halt with an 82-68 loss on the Horned Frogs’ hypnofloor.
In a game played at a frenetic pace with both teams missing shots early, K-State actually claimed an 11-6 lead when Desi Sills canned a 3-point bucket just under six minutes into the game. But TCU staged a 10-0 run over the next three minutes, aided by poor K-State shot selection, two K-State turnovers, and 8 TCU fast-break points that directly resulted from K-State’s sloppy play to grab a 16-11 lead.
It would be the theme of the day.
K-State (15-2, 4-1 Big 12) surged into the Top 25 Monday on the back of spectacular play by senior leaders Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson and steady contributions from at least one or two members of the supporting cast. Against TCU (14-3, 3-2), the Cats got some encouraging performances from others, but not enough quality play from the stars.
Johnson did manage to score 18 points on 7-16 shooting. But he also committed 7 turnovers. Nowell, who has deservedly been the darling of the college basketball world the past two weeks, finished with 16. But those came on 6-14 shooting, including 2-7 from outside. All but a handful of those points came in the last six minutes of play, when the game was out of reach. And he committed 6 turnovers.
When your two star players struggle shooting and combine for 13 turnovers, the likely outcome is an ugly loss. And this was just that: an ugly, ugly loss. The 14-point final margin does not truly reflect the ease with which the Horned Frogs won this game.
K-State trailed 43-29 at halftime. A scoring drought from the 15:31 to the 12:16 mark of the second half allowed TCU to stage an 8-0 run that pushed the score to 57-33—by far the largest deficit the Cats have faced all season. It wound up being too much to overcome, even after Nowell found the range on a couple of deep shots and got to the bucket for a couple more.
Not all was gloom. Tykei Green had one of his better appearances in the K-State lavenders with 11 points, and Nae’Kwan Tomlin chipped in 8 points and led everyone with 10 rebounds. But the efforts of the role players were not enough to overcome the mistakes that dug the enormous hole or the efficient ease with which TCU shared the basketball and scored at the rim.
Four TCU players reached double-figures, led by Emanuel Miller, who dropped in 23.
Three in the Key
- Disappointing as the outcome was, K-State fans should appreciate that basketball is a game of highs and lows. We have been on a remarkable high through the first two weeks of the season, and this may be something of a market correction. Sometimes, shots don’t fall. Sometimes, the other team has a game plan that you failed to anticipate and were too slow to counter. The game is predicated on small margins, and this season in the Big 12 will present challenges every game. Be just a bit off, and you lose a close one, no matter who the opponent. Be way, way off for stretch of the game, and you get run out of the gym. We should take some solace in perspective, as well. K-State is still 15-2 and exceeding expectations by a wide margin. The fun is nowhere near over.
- Credit TCU for maximizing its strengths and recognizing early that the referees would give them the latitude to play aggressively. All day TCU challenged the dribble-drive aggressively and bodied up on offensive players trying to make a move to the basket. They created turnovers by sneaking in behind ball-handlers, and they ran the floor beautifully. Though the Frogs made a few deep shots in the second half (they were 0-7 from outside before intermission) they won the game by attacking the basket with a numbers advantage. They had 15 steals on the day, and despite their aggressive play, were whistled for only 3 fouls in the first half and 8 for the entire game. Meanwhile, their attacking style led to 17 K-State fouls, and a 19-7 advantage for the Frogs in free throw attempts.
- The season is a journey, and the Wildcats will hope that the lessons learned in this leg of the trip will lead to better performances in the future. Turnovers have been a season-long issue, and the 20-10 disadvantage for K-State in the giveaways category today (a day in which the Wildcats uncharacteristically won the rebounding battle, 40-39) may explain the outcome more than any other stat. In part, the Wildcats turn it over because they usually try to force the issue offensively with Nowell. TCU plays that way, too, of course. Their efficiency and the way they forced turnovers and poor shot selection should be the teaching highlight of film study before Tuesday night.
Speaking of Tuesday night and journeys...Kansas comes to town for a 6:00 CST tipoff to give Coach Tang and his staff their first opportunity in the bitter rivalry. The game will air on (what’s this?) ESPN. Finally, the big networks must be noticing—what’s that? Oh. Yeah. Rock Squawk.