Kansas State was never quite out of its home contest against TCU Tuesday night.

The Wildcats were never really in it, either.

The hosts made several runs, especially late. They were within single digits the entire time. They tied the game inside of 15 seconds, even.

Yet K-State never found the offense, or the stops, or the momentum necessary to avoid its second Big 12 loss in as many games, dropping a 59-57 decision to TCU at Bramlage Coliseum.

“Today,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said, “we were kind of all over the place.”

K-State was fighting an uphill battle nearly the entire way. Senior wing Xavier Sneed, who totaled a team-best 19 points, drilled a key 3-pointer to bring his group within 49-47. Senior forward Makol Mawien, who added 10 points, followed with a layup seconds later.

Those were important baskets, but they highlighted a trend that plagued K-State all night. The Horned Frogs kept the Wildcats at arm’s length, even — and especially — when the hosts appeared on the verge of making a rally.

For example, and most importantly: Backup point guard David Sloan nailed a triple with 13 seconds left, tying the game at 57-all.

On the other end, though, TCU forward Kevin Samuel tipped in a miss with two seconds to play. That forced K-State to inbound under its own basket, and Sloan’s desperation heave careened off the top of the backboard and out of bounds.

“We keep battling. We keep giving ourselves chances,” said Weber, whose team was playing without freshman forward Antonio Gordon, who suffered an injury in practice. “But we have to play smarter. Can’t have some breakdowns on defense, and we’ve got to take care of the ball on offense. Make a little better shot selection, a little better consistency if we’re going to make some progress.”

Earlier in the game, those examples were in no short supply.

TCU got a bucket from Desmond Bane, scorer of 16 points, to push his club’s lead to 53-49 with about three minutes left.

Minutes later, after K-State freshman guard DaJuan Gordon nailed a jumper to trim TCU’s lead to 53-52 with just over two minutes left, Bane answered with a triple. That handed the Horned Frogs a 56-52 lead, forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout.

Next K-State possession: Turnover, courtesy of Mawien.

“Probably, TCU deserved to win,” Weber said. “But it looked like, maybe, we were going to be the ones to come back and find a way. To their credit, (they had) the tip-in at the end.”

Point guard Cartier Diarra, who struggled through a 10-point outing against Oklahoma, picked up his fourth foul with a shade under 12 minutes to play against TCU. That pressed Sloan into action.

With 26 seconds left, though, Diarra reached in and picked up his fifth and final foul.

From there, TCU upped its lead with two free throws from R.J. Nembhard, taking a 57-54 lead. Sloan answered with his triple. Then Samuel tipped in the game-winner.

“Just execution,” Sloan said of why the Wildcats struggled once again in a close game. “Just being smart with the ball. Not trying to rush it and make the hero play.”

For K-State, this loss underscores the worst kind of theme. The Wildcats’ last five games have come down to the wire: against Mississippi State, Saint Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Tuesday against TCU.

K-State’s record in those contests: 1-4.

The Wildcats have struggled to close the door late, and the score hasn’t mattered. On Saturday against Oklahoma, K-State had a seven-point lead with 3:45 left. The Sooners closed on an 12-0 run.

On Tuesday against TCU, K-State never led in the second half, but again: The Wildcats had a chance to win a close game.

No dice.

“A little smarter execution, a little better shot selection,” Weber said. “A couple less turnovers, couple less breakdowns on defense. Hopefully we can take a nice step. I feel bad for them. It’s discouraging.”

Another stretch of the game that hurt the K-State: The first half.

The final four minutes, in particular.

With a little less than four to play, freshman forward Montavious Murphy converted a layup inside, tying things up at 23-23.

That’s when things began to unravel for the hosts.

The Horned Frogs responded with four straight 3s, courtesy of Nembhard, Desmond Bane, Edric Dennis Jr. and Jaire Grayer. Mawien managed a layup during that stretch, but in effect, the damage was one.

TCU closed the half on a 12-2 run.

“We broke down in probably the worst time in the game, and the worst part of the game,” Sneed said. “Just can’t keep breaking down in those positions, so (we’ve) got to execute and just not break down. That’s about it.”

It may not be that simple — “The mental toughness part is not there, and that’s why we continue to lose close games,” Weber said — but K-State’s next chance to get back on track comes Saturday on the road against Texas.

Ask the group’s senior leader and it seems the Wildcats already are in the process of turning the page.

“Just getting back tomorrow,” Sneed said, “watching film, getting these guys ready and focused in on what’s coming. Texas coming up next. Just getting a ‘W’ there in Texas. That’s our big mindset right now.”

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