No. 2 Baylor had three shots in the paint in the final 10 seconds to complete a comeback from 19 points down at home against Kansas State but was unable to make any of them, losing 56-54 to the Wildcats.
Johnathan Motley finished with 17 points and 14 boards, but he had two point-blank chances to tie the game on the final possession and missed them both.
Kansas State got 15 points and four assists from Kamau Stokes while Wesley Iwundu added 12 points, eight boards and five assists. They were up 37-18 with four minutes left in the first half and 46-28 with 15 minutes left in the game, but Baylor’s defense completely stifled Kansas State down the stretch.
Here are three things we learned in this game:
1. Kansas State finally breaks through: Entering the day, the Wildcats were just 2-7 against the RPI top 100 and sitting squarely on the bubble. They had lost at Kansas thanks to a travel-enhanced layup at the buzzer by Svi Mylhailiuk. They lost at Texas Tech in a game where they were on the wrong of a couple calls down the stretch. They badly needed this win, and, somehow, they were able to hang on. For now, this win probably takes Kansas State off the bubble.
2. Baylor blew their chance to make up ground on Kansas: Kansas losing a home game was the opportunity that Baylor needed to make up ground on the Jayhawks after the Bears lost at Phog Allen on Wednesday. If they hadn’t blown this game, they would currently be sitting in a tie for first place in the conference with the Jayhawks with a head-to-head home matchup with them left on the schedule. That’s the dream scenario. An outright Big 12 title would have been Baylor’s to win. Now that can’t happen unless Kansas loses again.
3. This win says more about Kansas State than Baylor: The Wildcats are a good team, one that has been on the wrong side of some bad luck this season. This was the win that proved it, that legitimized their chances of getting to the NCAA tournament. Baylor’s lost just twice this season – at West Virginia and at Kansas – and has put together one of the best résumés in the sport. They are not a fluke, and the Wildcats mollywhopped them for 25 minutes on Saturday.
They also probably should have blown that lead down the stretch, which is why I’m not all that concerned about Baylor’s performance. Sometimes weird things happen in college basketball. Kansas blew a 15-point lead at home today. Virginia blew a 12-point halftime lead. Oregon hit a million threes and, at one point, led Arizona by 35 points. The Bears dug themselves a hole and very nearly crawled all the way out.
I’d go as far as to say that I’m more bothered by the fact that Baylor couldn’t complete the comeback than the fact that they needed to make a comeback. It’s good to know they’re capable of making a run like this when they’re not a team that’s built around uptempo offense or three-point shooting. They made that run, but they missed two shots from within three feet in the final 6.4 seconds that would’ve tied the game; that doesn’t count the 10-foot pull-up jumper that Lecomte missed because he was trying to draw a foul.
(UPDATE: Since Baylor fans are crushing me for this, let me be more clear in my point. Yes, Baylor came back from 22 points down to win against Louisville, but that comeback was a slow-grind. It wasn’t a deviation from what they normally do, they just actually did it well in the second half. Against Kansas State, they were down by 11 points with 3:30 left. Baylor is a slow-paced, defensive-oriented program team that pounds the ball inside, doesn’t shoot many threes and doesn’t force many turnovers. That’s the opposite of what’s ideal when you’re trying to rally from a big deficit late in a game, but the Bears were still able to make it happen on Saturday.)