It was a heartbreaker in the Octagon of Doom on Tuesday night as the men’s basketball team fell to TCU in the Big 12 Conference home opener, 59-57.
The Wildcats (7-7, 0-2 Big 12) were in desperate need of a win following a series of ups and downs so far this season.
“We keep battling, we keep giving ourselves chances, but we’ve got to play smarter,” head coach Bruce Weber said.
Senior guard Xavier Sneed led the Wildcats with 19 points, but Kansas State once again dropped a close game to start conference play on a two-game skid.
Six of K-State’s seven losses this season have been single-digit defeats. Sneed has kept the Wildcats in games all season long, and so far played 11 games this season where he scored into the double digits.
The Horned Frogs (11-3, 2-0 Big 12) were fresh off of a conference win over Iowa State and entered play shooting 45 percent from the floor.
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The Horned Frogs brought out the zone defense and opened with a quick 7-0 lead and held the lead for all but 1:56 of the game.
Both teams locked it down on defense in the opening half with neither team managing to put up many shots, leading to a relatively balanced first half.
TCU held a 35-25 lead heading into the half despite shooting 44 percent from the floor. Right before the half, a late push from TCU killed K-State.
“We broke down at the worst part of the game,” Sneed said. “End of the half, end of the game as well. We just can’t keep breaking down in those positions, so we’ve got to execute.”
In the first half, Sneed led the Wildcats with 10 points as the Wildcats went to halftime shooting 35 percent from the floor.
Senior guard Desmond Bane and sophomore center Kevin Samuel led the Horned Frogs with eight points each. Samuel was one bucket shy of a double-double in the first half with 10 rebounds. TCU outrebounded the Wildcats 21-13 in the half.
K-State was effective from the free-throw line in the first half, going 8-9 from the stripe. The Wildcats only made eight buckets from the floor in the half.
An 8-0 run got the Wildcats back within striking distance, trailing 40-37 with 14 minutes remaining in the game. The scoring run was the largest of the game, but it wasn’t enough.
Redshirt junior guard Cartier Diarra was limited in the second half after recording his fourth foul with just over ten minutes remaining in the game. Junior guard Mike McGuirl also picked up his fourth foul with seven minutes remaining.
The Wildcats trailed 49-47 with four minutes to play, a position that has become a trend this season. The Horned Frogs outscored K-State 13-10 in the final four minutes to hang on in dramatic fashion.
K-State trailed 56-54 with under a minute to play, but had to finish the game without Diarra, who picked up his fifth foul. Junior guard David Sloan tied the game with a three with 13 seconds left, but a tip-in on the following possession gave the Horned Frogs a 59-57 lead with 1.7seconds remaining. K-State missed the last-second shot, sealing the victory for TCU.
The Wildcats outscored the Horned Frogs 32-24 in the second half, but could not complete the comeback.
The Wildcats shot 43 percent from the floor and 58 percent from the line, and got 16 points off the bench with eight from Sloan.
After the game, Weber discussed how Sneed sets the spark for the Wildcats, but needs more support from the rest of the team.
“He’s given us a chance, and now we’ve got to have some other guys follow that and give us a chance to be successful,” Weber said.
The Wildcats have struggled down the stretch of games this season and continues to struggle to hang onto the ball.
The Wildcats will travel to Austin to face Texas on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the Longhorn Network and will be available on the K-State Sports Network.