With four minutes to go in the first half, Kansas State led Baylor by 19 after blitzing the Bears with turnovers and converted opportunities. And fifteen minutes later, the Wildcats still had a 16-point lead.
Then the final nine minutes descended on K-State like a meteor. A blocked shot by D.J. Johnson with one second left finally allowed K-State (16-7, 5-5) to escape Waco with a 56-54 win over the Bears.
What happened? With the game three-quarters over, Bruce Weber changed gears and the team started trying to kill the clock. An offense that was working for the most part suddenly disappeared — K-State scored only seven points over the final eleven minutes of the contest and, whereas earlier the offense and defense flowed together rather seamlessly, the defense became disjointed as well. Baylor (20-3, 7-3) stormed back, and very nearly reached the finish line first.
A dismal effort at the foul line contributed to the problem. Dean Wade missed a pair and Johnson was 1-for-6 from the stripe, and almost all of those misses came during the stretch run.
Kamau Stokes led the way for K-State with 15 points, while Wade scored 12 and had 6 rebounds in a return to form, missing much of the Baylor recharge with foul trouble. Wesley Iwundu also reached double figures with 10 and 8; Johnson added 9 and 6. Johnathan Motley led the Bears with 17 and 14. Manu Lecompte was held in check after his explosion at Bramlage last month, scoring only nine points.
It’s a maddening post-game feeling for K-State fans. Yes, K-State just beat the #2 team in the nation on the road. But it almost went sour, so bitterly sour, and the cause couldn’t possibly have been clouded. K-State played hard the entire game. K-State played with great athleticism the entire game. What changed at the nine-minute mark was what they were asked to do, and that almost cost them.
In the end, it’s a win. It’s a feather in the team’s cap. It might even be an argument in favor of the position that the fanbase is often too hard on Weber...
...assuming everyone forgets the final quarter of the game.
Next up: Jayhawks. Bramlage. Fire emojis.