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Kansas State faces TCU on the opening night of the Big 12 Championship from Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY – Welcome to a Big 12 Championship tradition at K-StateOnline, the Running Diary from inside of Sprint Center.

I’ll chronicle K-State’s game with TCU here throughout the night, as the Wildcats look to advance to the second day of the tournament against No. 2 seed Baylor.

If K-State does advance, the Wildcats will play in front of an extremely limited number of fans in attendance following Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s announcement earlier this evening of limited access (only 125 fans per school, no bands or cheerleaders, etc.):

8:13 p.m.: K-State takes the floor wearing its black uniforms tonight in K.C.

I imagine the crowd will be much, much smaller this evening with Iowa State out, but I can say both Logan Mantz and @ksu_FAN will represent in the crowd this evening, if nothing else.

8:43 p.m.: BIG thanks to Grant Flanders for the following pregame photos:

Also, the Wildcats will be going with the same starting lineup we’ve seen the last three games:

8:55 p.m.: Very strong start for K-State, as just more than three minutes in the Cats hold a 6-0 lead with four turnovers from TCU.

K-State scored first on a basket from Mike McGuirl then forced a turnover on TCU’s first possession, a sign of how things would go early on for the Horned Frogs. McGuirl then dished to Makol Mawien for a 4-0 lead prior to a pair of Xavier Sneed free throws, and TCU did not get on the board until the 16-minute mark.

K-State still leads, 6-2, with 15:19 left in the first half at the first media timeout.

9:02 p.m.: A couple of subs now, as David Sloan and Levi Stockard each hit the floor for the first time this evening.

Cartier Diarra, who was called for a charge before the media timeout, just knocked down a triple from the top of the key for a 9-2 K-State advantage.

Sloan hits his first shot, a long two from near the top of the key, and TCU has to call a timeout already facing an 11-2 hole with 13:33 left in the half. K-State is 4-of-10 from the floor, TCU just 1-of-6.

Kansas State junior Cartier Diarra made the Wildcats first 3-point attempt of the contest.
Kansas State junior Cartier Diarra made the Wildcats first 3-point attempt of the contest. (Grant Flanders/K-StateOnline)

9:05 p.m.: Diarra scores, again, right out of the timeout, this on a drive to put K-State up 13-2 before TCU finally answers inside with a Kevin Samuel basket. Samuel may be getting TCU back in this one, as another finish inside now makes it just a seven-point lead for K-State.

Well, until Sloan answered with a 3-pointer, leaving K-State 2-of-3 from range so far and back ahead 16-6 going into another media timeout with 11:06 to play in the opening half.

9:10 p.m.: Samuel gets a tip-in for the Frogs, and the big man is providing the only offensive weapon so far for TCU.

He got exposed a bit, though, when McGuirl drove straight at him and opened up Mawien for a lob jam for the Cats.

Now DaJuan Gordon knocks in a three, and K-State is hammering TCU early on.

Dixon calls another timeout with K-State ahead 21-8.

Freshman DaJuan Gordon became the third Wildcat to make a first-half 3-pointer against TCU.
Freshman DaJuan Gordon became the third Wildcat to make a first-half 3-pointer against TCU. (Grant Flanders/K-StateOnline)

9:13 p.m.: Diarra drives inside, again, and scores with Samuel now worried about leaving Mawien for the lob. It’s another media timeout with K-State still in control, leading 23-8.

9:24 p.m.: Long scoring drought for both teams is ended when Stockard finishes a nifty pass from Diarra to put K-State up 25-8.

And, hey, it’s another media timeout!

If K-State outscores TCU 2-0 over every four minute stretch the rest of the way, I like the Cats’ chance to win.

K-State 25, TCU 8 with 3:45 left in the first half.

9:34 p.m.: Sneed forces a Desmond Bane turnover out of the timeout, but K-State does not take advantage of the turnover on the other end, and TCU does get back on the board with a drive to make it 25-10.

Stockard is called for a moving screen to give possession back to TCU, and it will be imperative for the Wildcats not to let the Horned Frogs back in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the half.

Mawien fouls RJ Nembhard, who hit TCU’s last hoop, while attempting to block a shot, and Nembhard knocked in both freebies to make it a 13-point difference. Nembhard stays red hot, hitting a triple in transition to bring TCU within 10, but Diarra finds McGuirl inside for a lay-up and a 27-15 K-State edge.

Nembhard misses another open three, and Diarra is called for a TERRIBLE charge. Wow. K-State, to its credit, does immediately force a turnover to get Sneed a transition opportunity on the other end. He misses a dunk chance while getting fouled and gets just one of his two free throws to make it 28-15.

Bruce Weber calls a timeout, and I think it’s wise. K-State looks a bit tired and, as noted earlier, it’s vital to find a way to maintain this edge going into the break.

9:35 p.m.: Big shot for TCU there at the end of the first half buzzer, another 3-pointer from Nembhard, to make it 28-18 at halftime.

HALFTIME: Kansas State 28, TCU 18

Big 12 Conference
Big 12 Conference
Big 12 Conference
Big 12 Conference

FIRST HALF THOUGHTS: Shooting has been the difference, so far, in this one.

The Horned Frogs were very good from 3-point range in the two regular-season games against K-State, but tonight TCU is just 2-of-10 (20%) from deep in the first half against 3-of-9 (33.3%) in the first half for the Wildcats.

IF K-State ends this game with more made 3-pointers and a better shooting percentage from deep that TCU, K-State will win.

I’m not convinced, yet, either of those things will happen, but I also want to make clear K-State does not NEED to do that to win, either.

As ksu_FAN taught us in the Preview & Prediction piece, turnovers will be key. The Wildcats only have seven points off TCU’s 11 turnovers, but K-State has only allowed two points off turnovers, itself.

If K-State protects the basketball, shoots relatively well from the free-throw line and avoids a hot second half from the Horned Frogs, K-State should move on to day two here in Kansas City.

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