Kansas State basketball knows it has to finish strong to get first Big 12 win vs. Texas Tech

·3 min read

MANHATTAN — Through the first 14 games of Kansas State's men's basketball season, the focus was squarely on the Wildcats' penchant for slow starts, either to the first or the second half.

Then, in Wednesday's gut-wrenching 60-57 loss to TCU, it rightfully shifted to the Wildcats' failure to finish.

"We've got to be better at finishing the game, finishing certain plays (and) staying poised," K-State guard Markquis Nowell said after the Wildcats blew a five-point lead in the final minutes, thus dropping to 8-7 on the season and 0-4 in the Big 12.

Devastating as the loss was emotionally, it also put K-State in an even more precarious position in a loaded Big 12 Conference. Starting with an 11 a.m. matchup against No. 19 Texas Tech on Saturday, the Wildcats begin a four-game stretch against ranked opponents.

"I spoke to coach (Bruce) Weber and coach Shane (Southwell) and talked to them about (how) the Big 12 is a good game every game," said Nowell, a transfer from Little Rock getting his first taste of the nation's top-ranked conference. "(It's) probably a tournament game every game, so you've got to stay poised and under control and finish basketball games."

More: Kansas State players take the blame for late-game breakdown in loss to TCU

Kansas State will try for its first Big 12 victory Saturday against Texas Tech.
Kansas State will try for its first Big 12 victory Saturday against Texas Tech.

With a recent COVID-19 outbreak, K-State has yet to play a game at full strength, though senior guard Mike McGuirl and Southwell were the only ones missing against TCU. Weber returned to the bench against the Horned Frogs as well after being sidelined the two previous games with the virus, said Friday that McGuirl had cleared protocols and will be available for Texas Tech.

"It's been a mess all year," Weber said of injuries and illness that have hit the team at various times.

More: 'It's a difficult situation': COVID-19 woes continue for Kansas State basketball team

The challenge now for Weber and his players is to not dwell on the past, especially with a murderer's row of Tech, Texas, Kansas and Baylor in front of them.

"There's still 14 games in the league, plus Mississippi, and then we’ve got the (Big 12) tournament," Weber said. "We've got our backs to the wall, but you know, I hope we made progress.

"I hope we can hang together and obviously we've got a tough game Saturday against Texas Tech, and all we’ve got to do is keep their spirits up and hope that they come and play their butts off again. That's what we've got to do.”

More: Kansas State basketball undeterred despite second-half collapse in 71-68 loss to West Virginia

Senior guard Mark Smith said after the TCU loss that the prevailing reaction in the locker room was one of anger and determination, not of self-pity.

"We've got to step up when it's crunch time and that's what coach says, (that) good players do that, and we've got to do that," Smith said. "We've got a lot of good players on our team and it's just that we haven't finished it off."

The Wildcats now face a Texas Tech (13-3, 3-1 Big 12) team that has won three straight, including victories over No. 10 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor, in the past week.

"It’s (the players') season and I’ve got to help them," Weber said. "My job as a coach is to get something out of them that they can’t get out of themselves.

"I thought we made some progress (against TCU) but not enough to find a way to get a win. It’s sad for them because they do care and they really try to do what we ask.”

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State basketball desperate for first Big 12 win vs. Texas Tech

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting