KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As a predominantly Kansas State favoring crowd departed the T-Mobile Center Thursday night, they did so after watching the warts of a 23-9 Wildcat squad made apparent once again. In the first game of Jerome Tang’s postseason career as a head coach, K-State followed a familiar game script to many of their previous losses.
After jumping out to an 11-2 lead when junior forward David N’Guessan slammed down a pick-and-roll feed from senior guard Markquis Nowell, Kansas State’s typical recipe for failure began to take shape. TCU outscored KSU 35-21 over the final 15:48 of the half and took advantage of suspect rebounding.
When a reporter pointed out to Tang that TCU made a season-high 11 3-pointers after combining to make just six shots from distance during the two regular season meetings, Tang said that the Horned Frogs shooting wasn’t even the most hurtful thing.
“I think the offensive rebounding was,” Tang said following an 80-67 loss that gave TCU its sixth Big 12 Tournament win in school history.
Along with all of the self-inflicted wounds, TCU took advantage of the offensive glass. The Horned Frogs were able to create 25 second-chance points, the most allowed by the Wildcats all season, through superior effort in the rebounding department. TCU grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, the exact same number as they produced during their 82-68 win against Kansas State in Fort Worth in January.
As the Horned Frogs continued to rain jump shots throughout the second half, the Wildcats offense stalled out in the halfcourt. The Wildcats stumbled and fumbled the basketball on drives to the rim throughout the final 20 minutes.
“All turnovers worry me,” Tang said after the Wildcats fell to 1-5 in games in which they’ve turned the ball over 19 times or more. “I felt like most of our turnovers today were guys trying too hard. We had a few careless ones, but most of those they were trying too hard. We have to show them and just really buy into making simple plays.”
A few weeks ago, Tang said that he and the coaching staff had worries about halfcourt offense and on Thursday night he expressed regret for not reminding his players of the physical nature of TCU.
“I didn’t do a very good job of preparing these guys for how physical and what force that people play with in the Big 12 Tournament,” Tang said. “That will not happen again.”
Kansas State has faced multi-game losing streaks before in this season. Both times, the Wildcats responded with a victory. With the win-or-go-home finality of the NCAA Tournament facing KSU next week, Nowell and Tang remained confident in the Wildcats ability to regroup and reset their focus.
“It will be alright,” Nowell said following an 11-point, five assist performance that included five turnovers as well. “It’s a new season. We’ll get better from this. But you know, we will handle adversity pretty good. We have a mature group of guys — so we will make sure that the guys keep their heads up.”
Regardless of what Tang said about preparing the Wildcats for their matchups and creating easier offensive looks, senior guard Desi Sills said the onus is on the players to deliver in March Madness.
“We got to step up. We have to play tough,” Sills said. “If they don’t score 80 points, they don’t win a game. That’s all on us. We got to execute. It ain’t on the coaching staff because they ain’t out there playing. It’s all on the players.”