By Daniel Hill
With one second left in the game and the score tied 61-61, Kansas State senior guard Rodney McGruder buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to sink Baylor 64-61 in regulation.
It was a heart-breaking loss for the Bears considering they played toe-to-toe with the No. 13 team in the country for 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
In their bright neon green ‘electric’ uniforms, the Baylor Bears welcomed the No. 13 Kansas State Wildcats to the Ferrell Center.
McGruder not only ended the game scoring, but he also started the game off with a bucket. McGruder hit a layup for the first points of the game and junior guard Shane Southwell followed with a jumper to give the Wildcats an immediate 4-0 lead.
Baylor junior forward Cory Jefferson started the game with authority inside by scoring five of Baylor’s first eight points. Jefferson made his presence known in the paint by powering down a set of thunderous two-handed jams to fire up the Ferrell Center crowd. Junior guard Brady Heslip also drilled two early 3-pointers.
With the score tied early 16-16, Baylor went on a five-point run to take a 21-16 lead. Senior point guard Pierre Jackson made two free throw shots and then freshman center Isaiah Austin converted an old-school tree-point play by making a layup and converting on the free throw.
Kansas State regained the lead by scoring six straight points, four of which came from McGruder on a dunk and a base line jumper to give the Wildcats a 24-23 lead.
Fueled by three Baylor turnovers, Kansas State extended its lead to five, 30-25 before Baylor came battling back to end the half.
Austin converted on a layup then Jackson drilled a three to put Baylor within two points, 30-28. Senior guard A.J. Walton hit a layup and then Austin scored on a tip-in slam to give Baylor back the lead, 32-31.
Kansas state hit a pair of free throws, and then Walton hit another jumper to give Baylor a 34-33 half time lead.
In the second half, Kansas State started off on an immediate 11-4 run to take a 44-38 lead.
With Kansas State up 54-50, Baylor went on a 6-0 run to regain the lead. Jackson nailed a three and then Austin had a crucial offensive rebound to allow Jefferson to convert on a layup despite being fouled and swishing the ensuing free throw.
Kansas State withstood Baylor’s surge after sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez drained a three and then passed to senior forward Jordan Henriquez for an emphatic alley-oop slam dunk.
Trailing 59-56, Jackson made three of his next four free throw attempts to tie the game at 59-59.
McGruder made a field goal on the next K-State possession and then Jackson hit two more free throws to keep the game tied 61-61.
With 7.7 seconds left, Kansas State had the ball and a chance to win the game on its final possession. Southwell missed the jumper and the ball went out of bounds and Baylor had the possession with one second left.
Baylor put senior forward Jacob Neubert into the game to throw the ball the length of the court to try to get a last second win. Neubert launched the ball the full length of the court, but nobody touched the ball as it went out of bounds. This gave Kansas State the possession with one second left under its own basket.
“They made plays and we had to make plays, but we were one short,” head coach Scott Drew said. “At the end of the game, first things first, there’s only two bad things that can happen: you foul or you don’t touch it. Obviously, the nightmare happened where we didn’t touch it. The celebration is we catch it and lay it in or catch it and get fouled. With one second it’s hard not to try to win a game. Jacob [Neubert] has done a great job making that pass and Isaiah has done a great job catching it. He’s come down with it and Cory’s [Jefferson] come down with it. It’d be tough not to try to win a game.”
Kansas State’s senior leader McGruder made a cut in the paint and sprinted out to the three point line. Rodriguez passed the ball in bounds to a wide open McGruder and he elevated with the ball and with complete body control swished the game-winning three point shot to give Kansas State a buzzer-beating 64-61 win over the stunned Bears.
“On the underneath out of bounds, I have to watch film,” Drew said. “Five on four, you hope that you keep everybody guarded. We ended up five on three. McGruder is a great kid and from a coaching standpoint. He’s a hard-worker and if you’re going to lose, you’d want it to be to a kid like that.”
McGruder led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points. He also had four assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Baylor had four starters in double-digit scoring. Pierre Jackson was Baylor’s rebounds. Brady Heslip contributed 10 points, nine of which came off of three pointers.
“No matter how we lost it, a loss is a loss,” Jefferson said. “Obviously we’ve lost before this and we know how to bounce back from it. We are going to do the same thing we always do and get ready for the next game.”