By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Baylor erased a 16-point second half deficit but the comeback ultimately fell short as the Wildcats held on to upset the No. 3 Bears 56-64 on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
Following three missed free throws in the final 30 seconds by Kansas State senior forward D.J. Johnson, Baylor had three chances to tie. However, junior forward Johnathan Motley had his final shot blocked by Johnson as time expired.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said Kansas State outplayed the Bears and when the Big 12 is as good as it is, you can’t afford to start as slow as they did.
“K-State came out and you have to give them credit, they outplayed us for 30 minutes,” Drew said. “The last 10 minutes, we started to get in rhythm, had some opportunities down the stretch, but the moral of the story is when you’re not good offensively, which we weren’t first half. He doesn’t finish his thought here, and it reads awkward. Cut that sentence with “…” When you play against anybody in this league for 10 minutes, you won’t win. If games come down to one possession, you’re not going to win them all. We have to do a better job from the jump.”
Kansas State came out in the first half and put Baylor on its heels the rest of the game. Baylor began to settle in and cut the lead to 22-18 before the Wildcats used a 15-0 run to take control in the first half. Kansas State shot 50% in the first 20 minutes and held Baylor to a season low 22 points and just 33% from the field.
Baylor’s offense looked out of sync in the first half. The Bears committed 11 turnovers, many of them on bad entry passes. They were unable to get anything going inside the paint as Motley and junior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. were held to a combined four points on two of eight shooting in the first half.
Junior guard Manu Lecomte had all the answers for the Wildcats three weeks ago. The Miami transfer gave a superman-esque performance to the tune of 26 points as he hit shot after shot against Kansas State. After hitting his first two three-point attempts of the game, it seemed as if he had in the same in store. Instead Kansas State held Lecomte in check for the remainder in game, holding him to one field goal the remainder of the game, and nine total points.
Lecomte said that regardless of the defense that he has to play better to help the team win.
“Obviously, they knew and they adapted. They played better defense,” Lecomte said. “But I just go to step it up.”
With Lecomte struggling, Drew tried a variety of different lineups and combinations trying to light a spark. That spark came in the form of Motley’s 13-point second half. Junior forward Nuni Omot also provided a spark off the bench, finishing with seven points. Despite missing two opportunities in the final six seconds, Motley finished with another double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
In the second half, Baylor’s defense looked much more engaged and began to put immense pressure on Kansas State on the offensive end, forcing the Wildcats into 10 turnovers and contested jump shots. The Wildcats also seemed content to run the shot clock down and rely on high pick and rolls, which Baylor was ready for and defended well.
Down the stretch, freshman guard Kamau Stokes hit two key shots for the Wildcats, including one as the shot clock expired to help keep Kansas State hold on to the lead. Stoked scored 15 to lead the Wildcats. Sophomore forward Dean Wade finished with 12 and senior guard Wesley Iwundu scored 10.
Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said that despite watching Baylor chip away at the lead throughout the second half, his team made enough plays down the stretch and that’s what is important.
“We won the game, we grinded it out,” Weber said. “We gutted it out. It’s one of those games where you just beat one of the top teams in the country on their court. No one else has beaten them here. Now we go home and face another top team in the country. All we can do is worry about ourselves and get ready for Monday night.”
With the win, Kansas State improves to 16-7, 5-5 in the Big 12. The Wildcats have a quick turnaround as they host No. 3 Kansas at 8 p.m. Monday.
Baylor drops to 20-3, 7-3 in the conference. The loss was the Bears’ first one this season at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears will take on Oklahoma State at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Stillwater, Okla. The game will air on ESPNU.