When Omari Lawrence made a three-pointer in the final minutes of Kansas State’s 65-53 victory over TCU, everything about Bramlage Coliseum felt normal.
The Wildcats were leading by 15 points, TCU coach Trent Johnson was frustratingly calling a timeout and the student section was dancing while “Sandstorm” boomed throughout the arena.
K-State was on its way to a comfortable win over last-place TCU, the only team in the Big 12 without a conference victory. Just like everyone had expected.
Though the final score didn’t show it, this game was in doubt most of the way.
“It’s disappointing in some ways, but also kind of what you expected,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We had three emotional games in a row against Texas, Kansas and the overtime loss at Baylor. No matter what we say, you’re probably not going to come out with great energy and focus.”
K-State made mistake after mistake — 13 turnovers and an air-balled layup — in the first half and took a 27-26 lead into the break. Things didn’t improve for the Wildcats in the early going of the second half, and the score was tied at 42 with 12:52 remaining.
With a smaller-than-usual crowd on hand, the arena felt dead and the Wildcats looked deflated. They weren’t sprinting to an effortless victory the way they have so often during their 14-game home winning streak, which ties the Bramlage Coliseum record.
“Our intensity wasn’t there,” junior forward Thomas Gipson said. “In the second half, we got things together.”
Still, TCU looked like the better team at times. Behind a game-high 23 points from guard Kyan Anderson and a surprisingly effective zone defense that forced 18 turnovers, it played one of its best games.
K-State jumped out to an 11-2 lead, but the Horned Frogs controlled the middle of the game. For a while, it looked like they would push the Wildcats until the end.
But K-State made enough plays to survive.
Most of them came in the rebounding department. The Wildcats snatched 18 offensive boards and out-rebounded the Horned Frogs 47-24.
“That’s huge,” Weber said. “That is probably something that has cost us when we have lost games. … That gives you a lot more possessions. On a night when we had a lot of turnovers, we got some of those back.”
Gipson led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Marcus Foster had 13 points, Nino Williams scored 11 points and Will Spradling had 10 points.
D.J. Johnson contributed with four points and eight rebounds. And freshman point guard Jevon Thomas helped Spradling provide stronger defense on Anderson in the second half.
Combined, those efforts were too much for TCU to stay close.
“It sounds like a broken record. We just got worn down. They wore us down in the post,” Johnson said. “We were right there with about 13 minutes to go, then the ball wouldn’t go down for us and we couldn’t keep them off the glass.”
The game opened up from there.
With the win, K-State, 18-8 and 8-5 in the Big 12, can focus on important upcoming road games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Those opponents will both undoubtedly offer more of a challenge than TCU, 9-16 and 0-13.