Dusty Hannahs tipped the Kansas State inbounds pass away from Will Spradling and into the backcourt.
Texas Tech guard Daylen Robinson made a beeline for the ball and Jaye Crockett sprinted toward the basket, freeing himself into position for a sure score that would have put Tech up by four with 14 minutes to go Monday night and put the No. 13 Wildcats, one of the teams atop the Big 12 Conference standings on their heels.
But Robinson’s pass never made it to Crockett. It hit the invisible wall that has stymied any Tech momentum all season and fell into the hands of Spradling. He found unlikely hero Nino Williams, who finished a 3-point play to begin an incredible personal run and put Kansas State back on track in a 75-55 win against the Red Raiders.
Like a delicate sweater, it took the tugging of one strand for a previously game outing to fall apart for Tech, which dropped its ninth straight game.
The bucket by Williams, who averages less than four points per game, began a stretch during which he outscored Tech, 11-2, by himself while grabbing six rebounds, rescuing the Wildcats in a game that saw them unable to put ninth-place Tech away for the first 26 minutes.
But Robinson’s turnover snowballed into a flurry of others, Tech missed the open shots it made while grabbing a brief second-half lead and just like that the upset bid was over.
Before Williams caught fire, it was Thomas Gipson who almost single-handedly lifted Kansas State. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound forward finished with 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting and eight rebounds.
Hannahs led Tech with 14 points and Crockett added 13 to record his fourth double-digit performance in as many games. On the same day he was named Big 12 rookie of the week for averaging 23 points the last two games, Tech freshman point guard Josh Gray struggled, scoring two points on 1 of 8 shooting against a team that recruited him heavily last spring.
Tech trailed 31-30 at halftime, its smallest deficit after 20 minutes since leading Iowa State, 28-25, in the last win for the Red Raiders on Jan. 23.