MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) – Kansas State was coming off a three-game stretch that included a hard-fought win over Texas, a heart-stopping overtime victory over Kansas and a double-overtime defeat at Baylor.
In the eyes of Bruce Weber, the Wildcats were emotionally spent with TCU coming to town.
“No matter what we say, we’re probably not going to come out with great emotion and focus,” the Wildcats’ coach said after a lackluster 65-63 victory Wednesday night.
“Not a great crowd, so you can’t play off the crowd — they didn’t get us excited when we go on a run,” Weber said. “So you have to bring your own energy.”
They finally did in the second half.
Thomas Gipson had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Marcus Foster added 13 points and the Wildcats used a 15-2 run charge midway that eventually allowed the Wildcats to seize control.
Nino Williams added 11 points and Will Spradling had 10 for the Wildcats (18-8, 8-5 Big 12), who matched a school record with their 14th consecutive win at Bramlage Coliseum.
“Obviously the first half, our defensive energy wasn’t how we played against Texas and Kansas. Our intensity wasn’t there,” Gipson said. “We were losing on our play-hard chart a little bit. The second half we just got it together and started playing better team defense.”
That’s what fueled the Wildcats’ big run, which allowed them to turn a 42-all tie into a comfortable cushion. They merely had to coax the last few minutes off the clock to give Weber his 45th win since taking over the program. That moves Weber into a tie with current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger for the most victories by any coach in his first two years at Kansas State.
Kyan Anderson led TCU (9-16, 0-13) with 23 points, his fourth straight game of at least 20. But besides 12 points from Karviar Shepherd, the junior guard got precious little help.
“They were more physical. It seemed like toward the end they wanted it more,” Anderson said. “They made those plays on the loose balls and every second chance opportunity they got.”
Early on, it looked as though things were headed for a rout. Kansas State hit six of its first eight shots while the Horned Frogs made just two of their first nine, and the result was a 13-4 lead that had a sparse crowd settling in for a comfy evening.
Back-to-back turnovers left them feeling restless again.
The Wildcats wound up turning it over 13 times in the first half — balls were passed into the first row of seats, dribbled off feet, deflected off noggins. The cacophony of mistakes, combined with mounting foul trouble, prevented Kansas State from ever stretching the lead.
Meanwhile, Anderson was slashing to the rim just about every time down floor, either getting a layup or getting to the foul line. He had 17 points at the break, including a basket with just five seconds remaining that sent the Horned Frogs to the locker room down by a point.
“They were hedging pretty hard so I felt like we could get in the paint on the opposite side that I was at,” Anderson said. “They kept trying to do that but they did a good job of changing it up and making it tough on us.”
The game remained close in the early stages of the second half, neither team able to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. Part of that was fouls but part of it was sloppy play.
It wasn’t until Spradling drained a 3-pointer with 12 minutes left to break a 42-all tie that Kansas State finally had some life again. Williams followed up with a basket, Johnson got to the foul line and the Wildcats were off on their game-changing run.
At one point, TCU coach Trent Johnson called timeout and spent the majority of it arguing with referee Tom Eades. When the game resumed, Williams kept the momentum going for Kansas State, and by the time Gipson made a couple of free throws the lead had grown to 57-44.
“Sounds like a broken record,” Johnson said, “but we just got worn down. Their physicality, especially in the post, just wore us down.”
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