Just when it looked like Kansas State might be ready to play its way into the Big 12 championship race, it failed to take advantage of a hot start and flopped hard against Texas Tech, losing 66-47 on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats scored the first seven points and fed off a loud home crowd to maintain a lead for much of the first half, but they missed too many shots to remain competitive over the long haul against the Red Raiders’ stingy defense.
This was K-State’s worst offensive effort of the season, as the Wildcats failed to score 50 points for the first time. They were cold, making 13 of 45 shots from the field, 3 of 17 shots from three-point range and going nearly nine minutes between baskets at times.
Dean Wade was the only K-State player to reach double figures, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
A fan seated behind the north basket summed up the night well by simply yelling “score” at the top of his lungs as the bricks mounted. Or maybe K-State fans booing at the end was a better microcosm of things. There was a lot to be disappointed with in this one. On one possession, K-State guard Cartier Diarra grabbed four offensive rebounds and the Wildcats still walked away without a bucket.
Texas Tech had a lot to do with that. Its mix of size, speed and depth overwhelmed K-State.
The Red Raiders took control early in the second half. The score was tied at 27-27 at halftime, but Texas Tech scored the first seven points after intermission and surged ahead 42-28.
Keenan Evans led the way with 19 points, while Tommy Hamilton added 14.
The Wildcats briefly fought back behind a three-pointer from Xavier Sneed and some hard-earned baskets from Dean Wade, but they never seriously threatened. The Red Raiders pulled away from there. They outscored the Wildcats 66-40 after the opening minutes.
This result will sting, because of what was at stake.
An afternoon of wacky scored in the Big 12 put K-State within reach of third place. A win over Texas Tech would have moved it within one game of first place in the conference standings with a favorable schedule remaining.
The Wildcats would have been contenders in the league race. Instead, the Red Raiders are now the team to beat.
Here’s a stat you don’t see every day: K-State is 6-6 in the Big 12 with all six of its wins and all six of its losses separated by a clear line. The Wildcats are winless against the top three teams in the conference standings, going 0-2 against Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia. They are undefeated against the league’s bottom six teams, going 1-0 against Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
Not surprisingly, K-State sits in a tie for fourth with Oklahoma.
A win on Saturday could have altered K-State’s season outlook. A loss leaves it in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett