Junior forward Levi Stockard III had a career-high night with 17 points as the Wildcats fell 66-63 against St. Louis in the Wildcat Classic in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Saint Louis native Stockard finished shooting 5-5 from the floor and 7-9 at the free-throw line, crushing his career-high.
Senior forward Makol Mawien was limited to 11 minutes in the game, and Stockard stepped up when it mattered for the Wildcats.
“Levi rose to the test and did a lot of positive things for us,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We just did not get the stops or scores down the stretch.”
The Wildcats started off slow, going 0-4 from the floor and held scoreless heading into the first media timeout.
St. Louis led 9-0 before junior guard Cartier Diarra hit a three to get the Wildcats on the board six minutes into the game.
The Wildcats fought back and tied the game 24-24 with five minutes left in the first half and took a 27-26 lead with a three by freshman guard DaJuan Gordon.
Kansas State entered the half tied with Saint Louis 31-31 despite the slow start.
Led by senior guard Xavier Sneed’s six points, the Wildcats finished the half shooting 40 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three.
The Billikens shot 57 percent from the floor and out-rebounded K-State 14-11. St. Louis freshman guard Terrence Hargrove Jr. led all scorers with eight points in the half.
Saint Louis came out of the half strong with an early 6-0 run in a span where the Wildcats turned the ball over four times.
The Wildcats took a 55-54 lead heading into the final five minutes of play, but were outscored 10-6 in a dramatic finish.
A technical foul gave the Wildcats two free throws and the ball late in the game but turned over the ball on the following possession with a 57-56 lead.
The Wildcats had the ball with five seconds remaining trailing 66-63, but missed the game-winning three to drop to 6-5 on the season.
K-State turned the ball over five times in the final five minutes.
“We should have been more poised,” junior guard David Sloan said. “We can’t be casual late in games.”
“We have to get better in that situation,” Weber said. “They have to take it seriously, and we have to go at it and understand we can’t be casual. We had some screw-ups defensively at the end that cost us, but credit to them, they made some good plays.”
The Billikens shot 51 percent in the game, led by 12 points from junior guard Javonte Perkins. St. Louis struggled from three, shooting 36 percent from behind the arch. They went to the free-throw line 25 times in the game and finished shooting 60 percent.
The Wildcats finished shooting 45 percent from the floor, 44 percent from three and 87 percent from the free-throw line. The bench stepped up for K-State, and the 31 points off the bench were three points shy from the season-high.
K-State uncharacteristically turned the ball over 18 times in the game, and the Billikens took advantage of it, scoring 16 points off those turnovers.
K-State will return to action on Saturday to wrap up non-conference play against Tulsa in Bramlage at 5 p.m. on ESPN+.