Tylor Perry couldn’t find more last-second magic for Kansas State in a frustrating 60-59 loss at Texas Tech Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats’ point guard wasted about 23 seconds dribbling around the perimeter with some ineffective ballscreens before a timeout to draw up a final play. Some physical man-to-man defense forced Perry into a tough stepback fadeaway from about 12 feet out and it didn’t really come close, all while the clock mysteriously never started.
Referees decided to end the game anyway, handing Kansas State its first loss of 2024 and preventing a second straight 3-0 start to Big 12 play. While there’s no shame in losing a difficult road game against a solid team, this one will sting after a field goal drought of 3:21 at the end and the disappearance of an 11-point halftime lead.
If we’re being honest, though, K-State’s offense looked fairly abysmal all day aside from a 20-0 run to end the first half that included six 3-pointers, four of which were made by Perry. Unfortunately he shot 1-of-10 (0-of-7 from 3) outside of those four straight 3s on his way to team-highs of 16 points and 4 assists.
There were some other bright spots, most notably 5 blocks and several other shots altered by Will McNair, Jr. The 6-11 senior looked effective inside at times while contributing 9 points and 9 rebounds, although he needs to clean up his 5 turnovers.
Cam Carter reached double figures for the 10th straight game with 15 points on 6-of-11* shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3. But even he committed a bad turnover* and missed his only shot in the last three minutes, both while trying to force something with the shot clock running down.
An ugly start after Carter’s layup 21 seconds in allowed the Red Raiders to jump out to a 9-2 lead before Arthur Kaluma’s three ended a K-State scoring drought of more than five and a half minutes. The Cats struggled to get any looks inside while allowing Texas Tech to get to the basket a little too easily.
Kansas State committed 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes and didn’t shoot very well either, making just 4-of-11 shots before McNair converted a 3-point play and Perry knocked down a long jumper to begin that really fun 20-0 run. It’s amazing how different the game looks when shots are falling, and of course it didn’t hurt that Tech’s leading scorer, Pop Isaacs, ran into some foul trouble as the Cats turned it up a notch defensively.
Kaluma and Carter both knocked down threes during the run, helping Kansas State finish the first half 8-of-13 from 3 and 4-of-11 from 2. Whatever works, I guess, but we should have known that was not sustainable.
It also helped that K-State eliminated second chance opportunities by outrebounding Tech 21-8, another advantage that would not continue after halftime. The Red Raiders turned 12 offensive rebounds in the second half into 12 second-chance points, none more important than when Darrion Williams turned a putback after a missed free into a 4-point possession to make it 57-55 Cats with 2:32 left.
That happened after Kansas State survived Texas Tech’s first serious push, turning a 2-point lead into a 55-46 edge thanks to four straight points by McNair and a bank shot by Perry. Williams eventually tied the game by knocking down two free throws, then Perry carelessly stepped on the sideline for the Wildcats’ 18th* turnover on the following possession.
Isaacs missed an alarmingly wide open baseline three before the Big 12’s leading free throw shooter, Perry, atoned for his mistake by sinking two more to stop an 8-0 run. It took 11 seconds for Joe Touissant to casually dribble the length of the floor, get two Kansas State players in the air on a pump fake, then draw a foul from a third to help the Big 12’s second-best free throw shooter convert what ended up being the game-winning 3-point play.
Touissant’s 12 points led a balanced effort for the Red Raiders that was just enough to give Kansas State what has to be one of the most frustrating losses of the Tang era. It was painful to watch a group to typically so typically poised down the stretch make multiple mental mistakes to let this one slip away.
The key now for Tang and his staff will be to make sure Texas Tech doesn’t beat Kansas State more than once. It’s time to forget about this game and prepare for a difficult five-game stretch to close out January that begins Tuesday against No. 14 Baylor in Manhattan and includes trips to Iowa State and Houston, as well as a visit to Bramlage from No. 9 Oklahoma.
*The official box score credits Carter with a missed field goal attempt at the 2:35 mark, but to my eyes the ball was clearly knocked out of his hands before he could get the shot off. This should have been a 19th turnover for Kansas State and a steal for Texas Tech, making Carter 6-of-10 for the day.