The Kansas State Wildcats are one step closer to earning a share of the Big 12 championship after beating the Baylor Bears at home 66-60.
It was a tight game for the majority of the night, save for a big run early in the game by the home team. The Wildcats did what they’ve become known for, though, making the right adjustments and playing better down the stretch to seal the victory.
Kansas State finished the first half up by two points, a surprising margin considering the Wildcats’ perceived domination in the opening 20 minutes. K-State posted an early 17-0 run to get out to a 14-point lead, then led by as many as 15, before Baylor closed the half on a 23-8 stretch.
Jared Butler wrapped up the half with a three pointer right before the horn to cut the lead to two.
Baylor was evidently energized by the strong finish to the first half, coming out in the second and taking the lead nearly five minutes in.
Senior forward Dean Wade, though, played his best game in recent memory and helped carry the Wildcats back into the lead and eventually to the victory. Wade finished with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
“I thought Dean was tremendous, it was tough guarding him,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Wade’s been dealing with a foot injury for several weeks, which has kept him out of practice and visibly hampered him in K-State’s Monday-night loss to Kansas. He was able to move with more confidence on Saturday, which contributed to the high-scoring performance.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Wade said. “It’s a big step for me.”
All the K-State senior finished in double figures in the win, with Kamau Stokes scoring 16 and Barry Brown contributing 10. Brown did most of his work at the free throw line, as he went just 2-of-10 from the floor but 6-of-9 from the charity stripe.
The rest of the Wildcats went just 13-of-21 on free throws, one make better than the Bears’ 60 percent foul-shooting effort.
While K-State had a few high scorers, it was once again its defense that stepped up and made the biggest plays of the game. It was a relentless effort throughout the night for K-State, which forced 19 Baylor turnovers and scored 21 points off of them.
“For 19 turnovers, to have a chance down the stretch, credit out guys for not giving up,” Drew said.
Mario Kegler led the Bears in scoring with 13 points. Baylor shot 47.7 percent from the floor in the losing effort, but that number was somewhat inflated by a 7-of-7 finish from the field. Prior to that run, the Bears were shooting just 37.8 percent.
K-State’s final road game of the year will be its next contest this Monday against TCU. The Horned Frogs lost their game this weekend to Texas Tech at home 81-66.
“TCU is going to be desperate, hopefully we have that sense of urgency,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “It’s there for us to take, we have to go take it.”