The Kansas State men’s basketball team’s matchup with TCU might’ve easily been mistaken for a zombie movie, not a Big 12 basketball game, as the Wildcats lurched along for a majority of the night before pulling away for a 65-53 win.
“I think one of the worst things that happened was when we went up 11-2 because now even if there is some fear I put into them, we just went really flat,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said.
K-State would score just four points over the next eight minutes as TCU’s Kyan Anderson — who scored 17 first half points — cut the lead to just 16-14 with 7:19 left before halftime.
“The focus and the maturity of the young guys, they just weren’t ready to play,” Weber said. “Marcus (Foster) has been so good in this stretch. He is probably mentally a little worn down. Wesley (Iwundu) was not ready. Nigel (Johnson) was not ready. We were throwing balls and hitting guys in the head.”
Foster shot just 4 of 16 from the field, while Iwundu and Johnson barely saw the floor. The Wildcats committed 18 turnovers and 24 fouls to let TCU hang around.
K-State (18-8, 11-5 Big 12) was monstrous on the glass, outrebounding TCU 47-24 on the night. They had as many offensive rebounds — 18 — as the Horned Frogs (9-16, 0-13 Big 12) did defensive boards.
K-State held TCU to just 36 percent field goal shooting for the game, and only 2 of 13 on 3-pointers. Once the Wildcats rejoined the land of the living, they dominated the Horned Frogs offensively scoring 1.27 points per possession in the second half, much of that due to a 15-2 run that began after TCU’s Karviar Shepherd — who got into a scuffle with Thomas Gipson moments earlier — tipped one in to tie it at 42 with 12:58 left in regulation.
The reanimated Wildcats then jumped on TCU. Will Spradling started things off with a 3-pointer with 12:07 remaining. Four minutes later a knifing layup by Nino Williams — who got his second straight start in the absence of Shane Southwell — on a feed from Jevon Thomas made it 55-44 and prompted TCU head coach Trent Johnson to call a timeout.
A possession later, two free throws by Gipson — who notched a double-double 16 points and 10 rebounds — capped the run as K-State coasted to their 14th-straight home-win.
“In the first half, our defense’s energy was not like how we played against Texas and Kansas,” Gipson said. “Our intensity was not there. We were losing on our play-hard chart a little bit. In the second half, we just got it together.”
K-State would hold Anderson to just five points on 1 of 5 field goals in a second half.
“We just did a great job of helping,” Spradling said. “Obviously he is a great one-on-one player and is tough to guard one-on-one. The bigs did a great job of hedging and the guards did a great job of shrinking the gaps and made him give it up.”
But this game wasn’t about the numbers the Wildcats put up against an undermanned TCU team. The Horned Frogs are bad, historically bad. Those rebounding numbers are almost par for the course against TCU this season. In fact TCU’s Pomeroy College Basketball Rating of 218 puts them in the discussion for worst Big 12 team of all time. Only four Big 12 teams: 2004-05 Baylor, 2011-12 and 2012-13 Texas Tech, and last season’s Horned Frogs have ever been worse.
Despite Johnson’s statements to the contrary, the Wildcats sleepwalked through much of Wednesday night.
With a pivotal road-tilt at Oklahoma (19-17, 8-5 Big 12) looming at 3 p.m. Saturday, Weber’s Wildcats will look to refocus. Cold starts and late-game lapses have plagued K-State to the tune of five straight road losses.
“I’ve begged and pleaded to play with energy in the first half on defense on the road,” Weber said. We made some progress, now just gotta find a way to win it.”
With no quality road wins, Weber knows the Wildcats have some impressing yet to do before Selection Sunday rolls around.
“The whole thing is building a resume,” Weber said. “We have some great wins at home, some neutral wins. It would be nice to get a nice win on the road, there’s no doubt.”