Things started poorly for the Horned Frogs in Kansas City Wednesday night.
They wouldn’t get better.
Before many even realized the game had started — instead distracted by the breaking news that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had tested positive for COVID-19, nearly singularly causing the suspension of the NBA season — the Frogs were down big, falling behind 6-0 and looking lost on the offensive end of the floor and disinterested on D. There would come a point midway through the first half when TCU would have more turnovers (9) than points (8), as they fell behind by as many as 17 before RJ Nembhard’s late flurry closed the Wildcats lead to 10 at 28-18.
Outside of Nembhard’s 12, there wasn’t much from the Frogs on offense; the rest of the team combined for just six points on 3-16 shooting, including an 0-7 effort from behind the arc. TCU got to the foul line just two times, making both, and were out-rebounded 21-14 through the first twenty minutes of play.
Paced early by the all-around game of Cartier Diarra, Kansas State shot out to a big lead, though they shot just 35% from the field and were just 3-9 from three. Their effort on defense and the glass was certainly the difference-maker early, as the Cats simply looked like a team that wanted it more than their favored opponent.
Generally a second-half team, the Frogs started slowly out of the break, missing an open shot, turning it over, and committing a silly foul. The Cats stretch the lead to 13 on a Xavier Sneed jump shot, and looked ready to fully run away with things.
But as Dick Vitale says — not so fast, my friends.
PJ Fuller hit a layup, then Desmond Bane and RJ Nembhard followed with back-to-back three pointers to cut the lead to just five. Bane followed his own miss with a short jumper in the lane to make it a three point game, and after a timeout, he drained a long two to cut the lead to just one, 33-32. The Cats answered with a layup over Kevin Samuel, but TCU tied things up for the first time on a Fuller bomb from deep.
The Cats kept putting together mini-runs, and the Frogs kept fighting back. Fortunately for TCU, the offensive issues that plagued K State all season long continued in KC, as they threw up a series of bricks and airballs to allow TCU to stay close. But, as they had in the opening twenty minutes, they seemed to make them right when they needed to, keeping the Frogs at arms’ reach most of the second half.
Desmond Bane wasn’t going to quit though, answering every Wildcats’ bucket with one of his own. In the second half alone, the senior star went off for 14 points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal, almost single-handedly keeping the Frogs in the game, and doing everything in his power to ensure Wednesday night’s contest wouldn’t be his last in purple. While Des put on a show in the second half, it was the support of his fellow guards that helped keep the Frogs in the game. RJ gave TCU its first lead of the night, connecting on a leaning scoop shot with just over five minutes of play to put his team on top 46-45. Kevin Samuel, who had a quiet night on offense, went 1-2 on the ensuing possession to make it a two point game with four minutes to play, following up his make with a steal and a layup on the other end. The Cats answered with a Xavier Sneed fade away to cut the lead back to two, and the teams traded baskets down the stretch with the Cats taking a late two point lead, when Kevin Samuel’s big block (maybe a goal tend, but it wasn’t called), gave the Frogs a shot, down two, with :17 remaining.
Jamie Dixon called timeout, and TCU ran a great set out of it, finding a wide open RJ Nembhard behind the arc for a good look at a potential game-winning three pointer. Though he had been money in those situations all season, his shot hit off the back iron, ending the game and the season.
TCU will not likely find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the NIT Bubble, meaning we have likely seen the last of Desmond Bane in TCU purple. It’s a travesty that one of the all-time greats will end his career with a first-round loss, and out of the postseason entirely. We can hope for an NIT miracle, but it seems unlikely at this point.
The Frogs were led by Nembhard’s 19 and Bane’s 16 — Desmond added nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. PJ Fuller and Kevin Samuel added seven each — and those four players accounted for ALL of TCU’s scoring Wednesday night. The Frogs shot 40% from the field and 31% from three, while K State was just 38% overall and 25% from three. The Cats won the rebounding battle (36-27) and both teams turned it over 14 times. KSU finished the game on an 8-0 run to seal it.
TCU Basketball will await its fate Sunday night, when the NIT Selection Show follows the NCAA Tournament field announcement.