Kouat Noi felt he had one of his worst games. Foul trouble limited Desmond Bane to his fewest minutes since December. And an active and suffocating opposing defense forced Alex Robinson into his most turnovers in two months.
TCU jumped out to a lead and kept it for most of the game, but K-State simply turned it on down the stretch and pulled away for a 70-61 victory on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
“Obviously a disappointing result for us,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
TCU (20-13) turned it over 18 times, it’s most since a season-high 24 turnovers in a triple-overtime loss at West Virginia on Feb. 26. The Frogs had 18 turnovers in a loss at K-State earlier this season too.
Robinson had six, his second-most of the season, and Noi matched his season-high with five. That translated into a 22-4 advantage for K-State in points-off-turnovers.
“They do a really good job of rotating and playing the passing lane,” Robinson said. “I felt like they did a pretty good job of that.”
For Noi, it marked another frustrating game against K-State. He was held scoreless in the previous meeting in Fort Worth, and had just eight points on Thursday. Noi went 2-for-8 from the field, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
“I feel like today was one of my worst games this season,” Noi said. “They did a good job defensively.”
K-State (25-7) won all three games against TCU this season, and will take on Iowa State in the first semifinal game Friday at the Sprint Center.
For TCU (20-13), the hope is that it did enough to secure a bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Frogs knocked off Oklahoma State in dramatic fashion Wednesday, putting them at the 20-win mark and seemingly in the Big Dance.
TCU will find out on Sunday whether that holds true when the field is announced.
“I feel like we’ve definitely done enough,” said Bane, who scored a team-high 16 points in 27 minutes. “We’ve got 20 wins in the best league in the country. That’s hard to do. … I feel like we should be deserving of a tournament bid.”
Added Robinson: “We don’t have any bad losses. I definitely think we deserve to be in the Big Dance.”
The Frogs showed they can play with the top teams in the country, including No. 15 K-State.
TCU jumped out to an early lead and stayed in front until the 14:48 mark of the second half.
K-State’s Kamau Stokes missed a free throw, but the ball bounced to his teammate Xavier Sneed. Sneed kicked it back out to Stokes, who drained a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Wildcats a 42-39 lead.
That was the pivotal play in what became a 17-2 run by K-State in which it took control of the game. Sneed scored the final five points of that run, including a 3-pointer at the 11-minute mark to make it 51-41.
K-State credited playing more aggressive on the defensive end as the key to sparking the run.
“We pressured the ball, deflected passes, got rebounds and got out in transition,” K-State guard Barry Brown, Jr. said.
Added Stokes: “Our defensive intensity picked up. We were lethargic in the beginning of the game.”
TCU didn’t go away without a fight.
The Frogs pulled to within 55-52 on a layup by Bane, but the Wildcats answered with a four-point play. Sneed made a 3-pointer while being fouled by Noi, and knocked in the free throw for a 59-52 lead with 5:29 left.
TCU had a late 6-0 run to make it a 63-60 game with 1:28 left, but K-State answered once again with a 3-pointer by Sneed, who also knocked down a 3-pointer just before halftime.
“They made the big plays,” Dixon said. “Give ‘em credit. The guys that made it, the shots, were Sneed and he’s an experienced guy along with those other seniors. I know [Sneed] is a junior, but he’s been playing all the way through and, to me, he’s a big factor of the team. He made the big shots.”
Arguably K-State’s best player, Dean Wade, missed the game with a foot injury.
In the end, it marked the second straight game TCU saw a double-digit lead fade away. Oklahoma State came back from a 21-point deficit on Wednesday before TCU answered in the end.
TCU led by as many as 12 in the first half, but didn’t have an answer this time around when K-State rallied.
But the Frogs have won two of their last three games, and feel they’d make some noise if they get in the Big Dance.
“For sure,” Noi said. “I’m saying off the top of my head right now, if we get in, I feel like we can make a run.”