Pack scores 23, Wildcats dominate TCU in first round of Big 12 Tournament

TCU and Kansas State compete during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championship at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 10, 2021. (Denny Medley\Big 12 Conference)

One year ago, almost to the day, Kansas State defeated TCU 53-49 in the first round of the Big 12 Championship tournament. The tournament, like nearly all other sporting events, was canceled less than 12 hours later. Fast forward to 2021, where once again, the two battled at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

“It felt different out there,” senior Mike McGuirl said about the reduced capacity environment. “Not too many fans, rather quiet, but it had that Big 12 tournament intensity out there. We are grateful to be able to play and have this opportunity. We had a lot of fun out there tonight.”

K-State cruised to a 71-50 win over TCU in the opening round of the 2021 Big 12 Championship Tournament on Wednesday night.

“Obviously, I am really excited and happy for our guys,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “Where we have come from to where we are now is amazing.”

Freshman guard Nijel Pack led all scorers with 23 points, his third 20+ point game this season. McGuirl provided support with 17 points.

The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead with a 15-5 run after a scoreless opening two minutes.

TCU responded with a five-minute 14-2 run to take a 19-17 lead amid a three-minute-long scoring drought for K-State, plagued by turnovers.

“I thought we had a great start to the game,” Weber said. “The only reason that they were able to get back into it was our turnovers, which led to points on the other end.”

K-State turned the ball over eight times in the first half, which led to 13 TCU points.

The Wildcats ended the half with a 10-0 run of their own in the final two and a half minutes to regain the lead and take a 29-23 lead into the half.

Pack led the charge for the Wildcats with 11 points in the first half, six of which came with back-to-back threes in the final minute of the half. Those threes were the turning point of the game.

“That was a great momentum shift for us going into the half,” Pack said. “They made a good run, and we were able to close it out with a couple of threes at the end with momentum going in our favor. We came out swinging again coming out of halftime.”

K-State simply dominated the second half with a 42-point half which included a 21-2 run over the middle seven minutes of the half. The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half, led by a 13 points half by McGuirl.

The Horned Frogs struggled from the floor all game, finishing the night shooting 37 percent from the floor. Junior guard RJ Nembhard was the leading scorer for TCU with 11 points.

K-State will play top-seeded Baylor on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri. The Bears overwhelmed the Wildcats in the previous two meetings, including a 107-59 win over K-State in late January.