Kansas State nearly rallied from an 18-point deficit, closing to within 61-58 with 38 seconds to play, before TCU converted from the free throw line to hang on for a 67-60 win on Saturday afternoon in front of a limited capacity crowd of 798 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
Down by as many as 18 points in the first half, the Wildcats (5-6, 1-2 Big 12) had to an opportunity complete the comeback with 38 seconds to play, but a bad pass led to a steal by junior R.J. Nembhard, who started a stretch of 6 consecutive free throws made to end the game by the Horned Frogs (9-2, 2-1 Big 12). Sophomore Kevin Easley, Jr., followed with a pair with 22 seconds before Nembhard finished it off with 2 more with 9 seconds to play.
The win extended TCU’s winning streak to 5 games, including 2 in a row on the road in Big 12 play, as the Horned Frogs collected wins in back-to-back seasons at Bramlage Coliseum for the first time in series history.
Nembhard, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at 18.4 points per game who missed TCU’s last game vs. Prairie View A&M on Wednesday, led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Easley and freshman Mike Miles added 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Frog bench also provided a boost with a combined 19 points, including 17 from junior Jaedon LeDee (9 points) and sophomore Francisco Farabello (8 points).
Four Wildcats scored in double figures for the second time this season, as sophomore DaJuan Gordon posted a career-high 18 points on 7-of-13 field goals to go with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in just over 36 minutes. Freshman big man Davion Bradford nearly collected his first double-double with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting with 9 rebounds, while senior Mike McGuirl and freshman Nijel Pack added 13 and 12, respectively.
The tone of the game was set in the first half, as the Horned Frogs couldn’t miss to open the game, hitting on their first 5 field goals and shooting 76.5 percent (13-of-17) in taking a 29-11 lead with 7:24 to play before halftime. The Wildcats were the complete opposite, making just 4 of their first 22 shots (18.1 percent), including a stretch of 12 consecutive misses.
A steal and layup by Gordon sparked an 8-0 run by K-State that closed the gap to 29-18 and forced a timeout by TCU head coach Jaime Dixon with 3:43 to play. The Wildcats finished of the half by scoring 8 of the last 12 points, including a 3-pointer by Gordon at the buzzer.
TCU connected on 61.5 percent (16-of-26) in the first half, including 77.8 percent (14-of-18) from inside the 3-point line, while K-State shot a season-low 32.4 percent (11-of-34), including just 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
The momentum the Wildcats generated in the latter part of the first half carried over into the second half, as a 13-3 run helped them close to within a possession at 41-39 on a 3-pointer by McGuirl with 13:08 to play. However, a pair of free throws by Easley helped start a 9-1 run that pushed the lead back out to 10 points.
After TCU extended the lead to 11 with just over 6 minutes to play, K-State made another push at grabbing the lead, using a 14-6 run — which included back-to-back 3-pointers from Gordon and McGuirl — to again get within one possession at 61-58 with 1:15 to play. However, Bradford couldn’t finish on a poor pass from McGuirl, and Nembhard stole the ball and was fouled, setting up the final sequence.
After starting red hot, TCU shot just 28 percent (7-of-25) in the second half, including 20 percent (1-of-5) from 3-point range, but connected on 16 of 19 attempts (84.2 percent) from the free throw line. The Horned Frogs finished at 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from the field, including 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from beyond the arc.
After the poor start, K-State recovered in the second half to shoot 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field, including 41.9 percent (13-of-31) after halftime.