KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To suggest that Levi Stockard had fallen out of favor in Kansas State's post rotation would be an understatement.
If it weren't for a curtain call by the Wildcats' senior class in last Saturday's regular-season finale, he would be going on three straight games without sniffing the floor.
With star forward Dean Wade sidelined again by his recurring foot problems, it was Austin Trice who drew the start Thursday against TCU in the Wildcats' Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. But when nothing else was working, K-State coach Bruce Weber had no choice but to look to the end of the bench and call Stockard's number.
Good thing he did.
Not only did Stockard rise to the occasion, his eight first-half points helped the Wildcats rally from a 12-point deficit on the way to a 70-61 victory over the Horned Frogs.
"Austin got his chance (and) Levi had been struggling, not finishing layups, not rebounding and giving us things we needed," Weber said. "Coach (Chris) Lowry sat down with him and no one had given up on you and he just said, 'I want another chance.' He got another chance today and he definitely stepped up."
K-State trailed 20-9 with 10 minutes left in the half when Stockard, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from St. Louis, announced his presence by converting a simple layup. Then after two Barry Brown 3-pointers cut the deficit to single digits, it was Stockard's back-to-back finishes on an offensive rebound and again from close range that trimmed the lead to 26-21.
At the 3:11 mark, he scored again and the deficit was three. By halftime, the Wildcats trailed just 34-32 and they were on their way.
"It felt great for me; it felt great for my confidence," said Stockard, who in 11 total minutes hit 4 of 5 shots and grabbed two rebounds. "I'll remember this because it boosted my confidence and reminded me I can play still."
Even with Trice starting ahead of him, Stockard figured it would take a committee effort to replace Wade's 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, not to mention his senior presence.
"I had a feeling that I had to step up a little bit and do something more," Stockard said. "Coach is always talking about when someone goes out, someone has to be one percent better.
"I just figured I'd be the one percent."
Junior Makol Mawien, the Wildcats' other post player, got off to a shaky start with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 2 fouls in the first half, which made Stockard's effort all the more important.
"He came on at a great time, a key time in the game," Mawien, who came back strong in the second half to finish with 10 points and eight rebounds, said of Stockard. "He came up with back-to-back buckets that were crucial for us."
Diarra plays 29 minutes
More good news for the Wildcats, who face Iowa State in Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal, came with the return of sixth man Cartier Diarra, who had missed the eight previous games with a broken finger on his shooting hand.
Diarra, who entered the game 5 1/2 minutes in with the Wildcats trailing 11-5, was a key player in the Wildcats' first-half comeback with a soaring transition alley-oop dunk that cut TCU's lead to three and a driving layup with a minute left in the period that trimmed it to one.
By the time it was all said and done, he had played 29 minutes, scoring eight points to go with five rebounds and three assists.
"It started with the dunk," senior guard Kamau Stokes said of Diarra's return. "I told him I was throwing (the pass).
"Whether he was there or not, I was throwing it and he said, 'I don't care, throw it.' Everybody has seen how high he can jump and he went and got it."
Diarra said he had no intention of holding back to protect the injured ring finger, which was taped to the middle finger for stability.
"I came here not thinking about that, because I think if I thought about it I wouldn't play as well as I did," he said. "I'm really good about forgetting about injuries.
"Once you tell me I could play, I'm not thinking about it anymore."
IOWA STATE vs. NO. 15 KANSAS STATE
Tipoff: 6 p.m. Friday, Sprint Center (18,972), Kansas City, Mo.
Records: Iowa State 21-11 (9-9 Big 12), Kansas State 25-7 (14-4).
TV/Radio: ESPN or ESPN2/WIBW (580).
Next: Championship game Saturday or NCAA Tournament.
IOWA STATE (21-11, 9-9)
P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.
F Michael Jacobson ... 6-9 ... Jr. ... 11.5 ... 5.7
G Nick Weller-Babb ... 6-5 ... Sr. ... 9.1 ... 4.0*
G Marial Shayok ... 6-6 ... Sr. ... 18.6 ... 5.0
G Talen Horton-Tucker ... 6-4 ...Fr. ... 12.4 ... 5.0
G Tyrese Haliburton... 6-5 ... Fr. ... 6.9 ... 3.8*
NO. 18 KANSAS STATE (25-7, 14-4)
P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.
F Makol Mawien ... 6-9 ... Jr. ... 6.7 ... 4.7
G Cartier Diarra ... 6-4 ... So. ... 6.4 ... 3.3
G Kamau Stokes ... 6-0 ... Sr. ... 10.8 ... 3.4*
G Barry Brown ... 6-3 ... Sr. ... 15.0 ... 4.1
G Xavier Sneed ... 6-5 ... Jr. ... 10.6 ... 5.4
* — Assists