Senior Makol Mawien broke a 49-all tie with a layup with 1:18 to play before junior Mike McGuirl capped an impressive all-around performance with a pair of free throws with just over 1 second left, as Kansas State grinded out a 53-49 win over TCU in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship before 17,606 fans at Sprint Center on Wednesday night.
With the win, K-State (11-21) advances to the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night, where the Wildcats will take on No. 2 seed and fifth-ranked Baylor (26-4) at 6 p.m., CT on ESPN2. K-State has now advanced to the quarterfinal round of the tournament in 13 of the last 14 seasons, including five in a row, and secured its third straight win over TCU (16-16) at the Big 12 Championship.
In a season where the Wildcats have lost 13 games by single digits, the team was able to close out a tight contest, outscoring the Horned Frogs 8-0 to end the game after they scored 8 in a row to take a 49-45 lead with 3:36 to play. Senior Xavier Sneed started the run with a jumper from the corner to close the gap to 49-47 at the 3:14 mark, while McGuirl tied the game at 49-all with a jumper just after the final media timeout with 2:22 remaining.
Mawien’s eventual game-winning layup came after a big defensive rebound from junior David Sloan with 97 seconds to play and was set up by McGuirl, who dished out his career-tying sixth assist to Mawien.
Defense was key for K-State, which held TCU to 49 points on 40 percent shooting (20-of-50), including 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from 3-point range, while forcing 14 turnovers. The effort was in contrast to the two regular-season losses to the Horned Frogs, in which, the Wildcats allowed a combined 25 3-point field goals. The team is now 87-9 under head coach Bruce Weber when holding an opponent to 60 points or less, including 8-1 this season.
The Wildcats were led by junior Cartier Diarra’s 13 points on 5-of-14 field goals, but it was the play of McGuirl, Sloan and Sneed that lifted the team down the stretch. McGuirl posted team-highs in both rebounds (7) and assists (6) to go with 8 points on 3-of-8 shooting, while Sloan posted 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and Sneed added 8 points and 6 rebounds. Mawien finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds and game-tying 3 steals.
For the game, K-State connected on 38.9 percent (21-of-54) from the field, including 25 percent (4-of-16) from 3-point range, and knocked down 7 of its 8 attempts at the free throw line.
Sophomore R.J. Nembhard (19) and senior Desmond Bane (16) combined for 35 of TCU’s 49 points, while Bane chipped in a game-tying 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals in playing all 40 minutes. Only two other Horned Frogs (Kevin Samuel and P.J. Fuller with 7 points each) scored in the contest.
The win gave K-State back-to-back victories for the first time since starting the season with 4 consecutive victories in November. It also marked the first time since a 61-53 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 29 that the Wildcats have won a game by single digits, while it was the first win by 5 points or less since a 69-67 victory over Tulsa on Dec. 29, 2019.