Wildcats struggle in victory

By Joel Jellison

It would have been easy to assume Kansas State was going to avenge its loss to Baylor by slamming TCU at home on Wednesday.

But Wildcats coach Bruce Weber didn’t expect that to happen. In fact, he expected the opposite.

K-State wasn’t too sharp on Wednesday in Bramlage Coliseum, and sometimes they were downright ugly. The Wildcats eventually found a way to prevail though, beating the Horned Frogs 65-53.

“It’s disappointing in some ways, but kind of what you expected,” Weber said. “We had three emotional games in a row with Texas, Kansas and then the loss Saturday at Baylor — no matter what we say, (they’re) probably not going to come out with great emotion and focus.”

The Wildcats (18-8, 8-5 Big 12) struggled to break away from TCU until the second half. Tied at 42 with 12 minutes to play, Will Spradling knocked down a 3-pointer to open up a 15-2 run that would push K-State ahead 57-44 with 7:20 to play.

The run seemed to take all the wind out of the Horned Frogs’ (9-16, 0-13) sails, and K-State coasted from there on. With 2:48 to play, Omari Lawrence made a 3-pointer from the corner to seal the deal.

It was a game that featured everything from lopsided numbers in rebounding and turnovers, to confrontations on the court between the bigs.

The Wildcats outrebounded TCU 47-24, including grabbing 18 offensive rebounds, to the Horned Frogs’ 18 defensive boards. Just like the first time the teams met, K-state had 18 turnovers, 13 of which came in the first half, and TCU scored 21 points off the, mostly unforced, mistakes.

Late in the game with 4:26 to play, TCU forward Karviar Shepherd and K-State’s Thomas Gipson got tangled up and tumbled to the floor. There were word exchanged afterwards and the two were separated by teammates.

From that point on, Gipson felt the momentum stayed in their favor.

“It was just a heated battle, a competition,” Gipson said. “Every one wants to play hard. That (altercation) happened and I felt like everyone got it going.”

After the game, Gipson said on postgame radio that he thought there was a lack of effort, leading to the Wildcats making uncharacteristic mistakes. His coach agreed.

“There wasn’t,” Weber said. “It’s one of the first things on the board because you anticipate that. Not a great crowd, can’t play off the crowd, it didn’t get us excited when we got a run — so you had to bring your own energy, just like on the road.”

TCU coach Trent Johnson thought his team just eventually ran out of energy. Behind the 23-point night from point guard Kyan Anderson, the Horned Frogs simply lacked the depth to compete with K-State’s posts, leading to 32 points in the paint from K-State.

One thing Johnson disagreed with, though, was that there was any lack of energy.

“If there’s a lack of energy, there’s not all that physicality going on,” he said. “There’s not Thomas Gipson wanting to knock a freshman on his butt.”

The Wildcats opened Wednesday’s game on fire from the field, quickly taking an 11-2 lead behind five points from Marcus Foster and four from Gipson. But Weber called that one of the worst things to happen to his team all night. K-State quickly went flat offensively, and then stayed at 14 points for nearly four minutes while TCU clawed its way back in the game.

The Horned Frogs eventually used an 8-1 run late in the first half to go ahead 24-23, and the Wildcats needed four points from Gipson in the final two minutes to reclaim the lead and hold on to a 27-26 halftime lead.

But the Wildcats remained flat and offensively challenged for the first eight minutes of the second half, and TCU kept itself in the game.

The Wildcats ended up needing 16 points and 11 rebounds from Gipson to win the game, while Foster struggled to 13 points, Nino Williams had 11 in his second straight start, and Spradling scored 10. Lawrence also chipped in nine points off the bench.

“I feel like the upperclassmen have been doing a good job the last couple weeks,” Spradling said. “Omari’s really stepped up. It’s something that we need to keep doing.”

Although Foster had 13 points and six assists, he did so on 4-of-16 shooting, while other freshman like Wesley Iwundu, Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson, combined to score one point.

“I think the focus and the maturity of the young guys, you saw it,” Weber said. “They just weren’t ready to play. Even Marcus, who has been so good in this stretch, he’s probably mentally a little worn down. We’re throwing the ball and hitting guys in the head.

“It’s great that the older guys (stepped up). That’s what you expect.”

The Wildcats will be back on the road on Saturday to play at Oklahoma. K-State has lost its last five games on the road and has just one road win in Big 12 play, coming against TCU.

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