Kansas State turns 4-point lead into 2-point loss in 3.8 seconds

Between the strength of the Big 12 and a dearth of quality non-conference wins, Kansas State already faced an uphill climb to reach the NCAA tournament entering Sunday's game against Texas Southern

The path is now even steeper for the Wildcats after they collapsed in stunning fashion during the final seconds of their 58-56 loss to the Tigers.

Kansas State led by four points when guard Jevon Thomas made the mistake of fouling Tonnie Collier while contesting his 3-point attempt with 3.8 seconds to go. Collier sank the first two free throws and intentionally missed the third one, a play that almost never works except this time when Chris Thomas scored a game-tying put-back with 0.9 seconds to go after Kansas State's Nino Williams crumbled to the ground on the box-out.

Even then, Kansas State was assured no worse than overtime with a successful inbound pass, but Thomas made another costly blunder, throwing a long pass to Marcus Foster that landed out of bounds without anyone touching it. Gifted an inbound opportunity under the basket, Texas Southern took advantage as 6-foot-9 Jason Carter cut to the basket, caught a lob pass in the paint and beat the buzzer with a game-winning five-foot jump shot.

Kansas State's loss is especially damaging because Texas-Southern entered Sunday's game with a 2-9 record this season. Though the Tigers have played a tough schedule and own an impressive win at Michigan State earlier this month, the SWAC contenders are still 178th in the KenPom rankings and will surely drag down the Wildcats' RPI.

It would be easier for Kansas State to absorb such a loss if the Wildcats (7-5) had accomplished more already in November and December. They have a couple of decent wins against struggling Purdue and middling Texas A&M, but they've also lost to small-conference Long Beach State and rebuilding Tennessee in addition to a 23-point blowout loss to Pitt.

Bad as the final seconds were for Kansas State on Sunday, the Wildcats never would have been in position to lose if they had sunk a few more free throws down the stretch. They shot 8 of 20 from the foul line during the game and missed 6 of 8 in the final 69 seconds to pave the way for Texas Southern to pull off a miracle comeback.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg