It’s hard to win basketball games when you commit 11 more turnovers than your opponent.
It’s damn near impossible when that same opponent, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country, catches fire from beyond the arc. Kansas State didn’t shoot the ball nearly well enough to overcome those challenges in an 80-67 loss to TCU in Thursday night’s Big 12 quarterfinals.
The Horned Frogs made a season-high 11 threes at a 44% clip, putting them over 40% for the first time since Jan. 21, when they made 8-of-15 en route to an 83-60 blowout at Kansas. Chuck O’Bannon, a 29.5% 3-point shooter this season, hit a difficult stepback and a heavily contested three on his way to a 4-of-7 night for 22 points and yes, K-State allowed Mike Miles to have way too many open looks. He made 4 of 7.
Markquis Nowell looked like TCU normally does from beyond the arc, shooting just 1 of 9 on his way to a highly inefficient 11 points. The rest of the Wildcats didn’t do a lot better, making 6-of-21 from three for an offense that struggled to generate good looks.
Keyontae Johnson wasn’t really his usual self, even before he took an inadvertent elbow to the face near the end of the first half. He settled for 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting with 7 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.
A sloppy but energetic and uptempo start saw Desi Sills block two shots and knock down a 3, while Johnson and Nae’Qwan Tomlin hit transition buckets to give Kansas State an 11-2 lead. Nowell dished out a couple of his five assists during that run and it looked for a moment like the overwhelmingly pro-Wildcat crowd might get to enjoy a blowout.
Sadly, TCU answered by scoring the next seven points before Markquis hit a pretty little floater to stop the run. He also knocked down a ridiculous stepback 3 (again, his only one of the game) to end a three-minute scoring drought shortly after TCU tied the game and then found Abayomi Iyiola for a layup on a beautiful no-look pass.
The Horned Frogs’ own all-league point guard, Miles, responded by knocking down a pair of threes for 6 of his 22 points as both offenses started to heat up. Turnovers slowed down K-State’s while TCU decided not to act like the Big 12’s worst 3-point shooting team and Emanuel Miller’s long-range jumper capped off a 7-0 run to give the Frogs a 35-27 lead.
Kansas State worked its way back to within three rather quickly (if you ignore the halftime break) before TCU scored 5 straight points, including a 3-pointer by Damian Baugh. Another guy who doesn’t even shoot 30% from 3 for the season. It was that kind of night.
Nae’Qwan Tomlin and Keyontae Johnson answered with back-to-back threes, getting the Wildcat faithful back into the game. They were ready to erupt when KSU jumped in front, but some more ugly turnovers prevented that from happening.
A questionable flagrant foul helped TCU stretch the lead back out to eight before a brilliant baseline inbounds play set up Desi for an easy layup. But once again, the Horned Frogs answered with threes, including one by Mike Miles that was created by an offensive rebound, a consistent problem for Kansas State.
The Cats never really recovered and it was over before the five-minute mark. Tomlin hit another three and just missed a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds, while Ish Massoud added nine points in 17 minutes off the bench.
I suppose if you want something positive, it’s that K-State will have a chance for some extra rest before playing a non-Big 12 opponent next Thursday or Friday. Hopefully that will be in Denver or Des Moines as a 3 seed, but I’d say neither of those things are guaranteed after this disaster.
Either way, enjoy seeing Kansas State’s name called on Selection Sunday, everyone. Also, don’t forget the last time TCU knocked the Cats down with by a very similar 82-68 score, KSU responded by beating Kansas in its next game. No reason they can’t bounce back again.
3 in the Key
- Second-chance points: Remember how I mentioned offensive rebounds were a problem? The Horned Frogs grabbed 14 of them and they cost Kansas State 25 points tonight. 25. That just cannot happen.
- Defensive woes: Defense is supposed to be the strength of this team, but it has been a serious problem the last two games. Guys just aren’t rotating like they should and other than Desi Sills, the energy just wasn’t there like it has been when the Cats are at their best. After giving up 80 in regulation twice in the 13 games before the trip to West Virginia, it’s now happened twice in a row.
- The Sills factor: Nobody on this team plays harder than Desi Sills, and that was especially true in this game. The senior was flying all over the place early on, violently blocking four shots before halftime and working his way inside the TCU defense on a consistent basis. He even knocked down 9 of 10 free throws for most of his team-high 14 points. Even though it wasn’t his best shooting night, he made himself into a factor on the offensive end, which is something not a lot of other guys in the lineup have shown an ability to do.