The Kansas State Wildcats led for most of the first half but were doomed by a 12-0 Baylor run early in the second and ultimately fell to the Bears, 75-60, in Bramlage Coliseum Wednesday night.
Nijel Pack played another stellar game, contributing 31 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. It appeared that would be enough when the rest of the team was contributing early. The Wildcats (12-11, 4-7 Big 12) led by as many as 7 in the first half and had held Baylor (19-4, 7-3) to only 13 points through nearly the first 12 minutes of the game. But after Luke Kasubke made a lay-up to give K-State a 20-13 lead, Baylor began reeling the Cats in.
The Bears tied the game at 27 with 3:44 remaining, and though K-State led twice more, the game went to break tied at 34-all. After such a strong defensive start to the game, the Wildcats yielded 21 points over the last 8:11 of the first period.
The recurring problem of offensive ineptitude out of the halftime break was the deciding factor in the game. Baylor scored the first four points to take a 38-34 lead. A Davion Bradford free throw and a three-point basked by Pack got K-State within 3 again, at 41-38, with 16:40 to play.
The Wildcats did not score again for over four minutes, while the Bears made a 12-0 run. Pack finally broke the drought with a three-point basket to cut the deficit to 53-41.
The Cats did not yield just yet. A lay-up by Mark Smith and six more points from Pack put them within striking distance, 55-49, with 9 minutes to play.
But Baylor was too much for K-State, walling off everyone not named Nijel and pulling away late.
On Saturday in Fort Worth, the Wildcats had four players in double figures. Against Baylor at home, only five players managed to score a field goal. Pack shot 10-19, including 4-9 from three-point range. Smith was 7-13 (1-3) on his way to a 17-point, 8 rebound night. The two accounted for 17 of K-State’s 21 field goals. For you math aficionados, that means the rest of the team combined for exactly four makes. Luke Kasubke was 2-5 overall (0-3 from deep) to be K-State’s third leading scorer, with a whopping 4 points. Mike McGuirl and Kaosi Ezeagu had one make each from the floor
The Cats shot 38.9 percent (21-54) from the field. Baylor, after starting cold, finished 29-61 (47.5%). Six Bears scored at least 8 points, and three scored double-figures, led by a career-high 21 from Jonathan Tchamwa Tschatchoua.
Three in the Key
- Look, Baylor is really good. The Bears won the national title a year ago, and though they have stumbled a few times recently—and got absolutely humiliated in Lawrence on Saturday—they have a standout roster stacked with long athletes and smooth scorers. When they commit to defending, they can make scoring seem impossible. For most of a half and all but about 8 minutes of game time, K-State looked as good as they did. That is basketball. Teams don’t tend to dominate start-to-finish. It’s the team that can put together more frequent and more sustained runs that wins. Tonight, Baylor did that. Though the game might have felt closer than the final score indicated, the teams are probably separated by about the margin we saw. K-State is not as bad as it looked losing 74-49 in Waco four games ago. But a win for the Cats tonight would have been big news for a reason.
- Another wasted standout performance. Baylor absolutely keyed on Nijel Pack in the second half of the game, and he still managed to score 18 of his 31 points after the break. Mark Smith came along for the ride, but everyone else may as well have watched. Foul trouble may have had a bit to do with yielding the lead in the first half, as both Markquis Nowell and Mike McGuirl had to sit. But nobody else ever got anything going, and K-State’s two weren’t ever going to be a match for Baylor’s five. Or six. Or eight. Nowell, in particular, has started to yoyo a bit. He played well against TCU. But tonight he was 0-6 from the floor and committed 3 turnovers. He’s a competitor, and K-State really needs him to channel whatever frustration he feels after this one into solid performances the rest of the way.
- Speaking of which, K-State plays at Iowa State, hosts West Virginia, and travels to Oklahoma State in its next three games. This stretch of winnable (but by no means automatic) games will decide whether any postseason dream lives, or whether it was never more than a dream to begin with.