MANHATTAN — From the start of preseason practice, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has told anyone who will listen how young and how new his Wildcats are.

Even his most experienced players — seniors Xavier Sneed and Makol Mawien, along with junior point guard Cartier Diarra — are trying to adjust to their new alpha dog roles.

That again was evident Saturday at Oklahoma, where K-State led for nearly 34 minutes, only to let it slip away at the end as the Sooners scored the last 12 points for a 66-61 victory.

For Weber, it has forced him to walk a fine line between angry and supportive father figure. He has to at once hold the players accountable while also encouraging them to keep plugging away.

"It's hard (to be patient)," said Weber, whose Wildcats take a 7-6 overall record and 0-1 Big 12 mark into Tuesday's 8 p.m. conference home opener against TCU (10-3, 1-0) at Bramlage Coliseum. "It eats at you, but soon as the game's over, I tried to remind myself, instead of going off, I said, 'All I care about is Tuesday night we're 1-1. Eight o'clock, we've got to get ready.'

"I'm trying. I may go home and hit the wall and scream and stuff, but in front of them I've got to help them and do my best for them."

At the same time, he's not about to let the players off the hook.

"They've got to be demanding themselves to improve, too. Improvement just does not happen. You've got to demand yourself to get better at the little things that help you get better.

"Still we've got to be demanding of them, but I think we have to be careful at bashing them. We have to help, but that doesn't mean you can't be tough with them."

Sneed, who leads the Wildcats with 15 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, has been the most vocal leader, while Diarra is trying to grow into the role as well. Those two and junior guard Mike McGuirl are trying to fill the void left by guard Barry Brown, who clearly took charge of the team the past three seasons.

"I think all of the upperclassmen lead a certain kind of way," said freshman guard DaJuan Gordon, who is becoming the Wildcats' most consistent scoring threat off the bench with 6.5 points a game. "X (Sneed) leads vocally and on the court because he plays so hard. Carti's the same way and Mike's the same way.

"I feel there's no person that's (the) straight leader by themselves. Everybody is somebody I can talk to when I need help."

The Wildcats were able to finish strong in their final nonconference test against Tulsa on Jan. 29, but did not score in the final 3 minutes, 45 seconds against Oklahoma. With the experience they had coming back, Weber admitted that he thought things would come together a little faster than they have.

"I thought it would be a little easier, I really did," he said. "But again, you look at all our games, we're there.

"Marquette just beat Villanova pretty easily. A week ago Villanova beat Kansas, one of the best teams in the country, so it's not like we're (that) far off, but we are far off because we have six losses … so can we change it?"

Next up is a TCU team that has won four of its last five, including an 81-79 overtime decision at home against Iowa State in the Big 12 opener. The Horned Frogs are led by senior guard Desmond Bane with 17.1 points a game, plus 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Sophomore guard R.J. Nembhard adds 13.6 points and sophomore center Kevin Samuel 11.7 points and 8.5 rebounds.