When it mattered most, the Cats picked it up.
Facing a must-win game, the Cats won, picking up a huge 70-64 victory over 3-seed 9/10 Baylor to advance to the Big 12 semifinals. Tonight’s victory strengthen’s their NCAA Tournament resume, to the point that the Cats immediately put themselves on the right side of the bubble.
It started out ugly for the Cats, as Barry Brown started the scoring with a three-point make, then the Cats didn’t score again for almost three minutes of game action. But Barry Brown wasn’t don’t for the night. The sophomore guard paced all scorers with 21 points in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, going a perfect 4-4 from behind the 3-point arc and 9-13 from the free throw line. His late-game free throws, scoring the Wildcats final 6 points from the charity stripe, proved to be the final difference in the game.
He was joined in double-figures by one other Wildcat, senior D.J. Johnson who dropped in 13 points and snagged 7 rebounds after a slow start. But the Cats got points from all over, as Kamau Stokes added 9, Wesley Iwundu and Isaiah Maurice added 8 each, and Xavier Sneed and Carlbe Ervin dropeed 6 and 5 respectively. The only Wildcats who saw the court and didn’t score was K-State’s newest Enigma, sophomore Dean Wade, who had zero points, one rebound, and four fouls.
Baylor was led off the bench by Al Freeman, who notched 16 points, and Manu Lecomte who, playing after missing the last two games with an ankle injury, dropped 13 points. Star forward Jonathan Motley was held without a double-double, dropping 13 points but only grabbing 7 rebounds.
Overall, Baylor out-rebounded the Cats 36-35, and put up 6 more assists, but the biggest stat was free throws, as K-State capitalized big at the line making five more shots (18) than Baylor even attempted on the night.
It was a big win, and may be enough for the Wildcats to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday regardless of the finish to the weekend.
Next up for the Wildcats is a tilt with 2-seed 11/11 West Virginia at 8pm (or, as we saw tonight, 30 minutes following the conclusion of Iowa State/TCU at 6pm). Just like with tonight’s opponent, the Cats and the Mountaineers split the regular season games, this time home and home.