Kansas State falls at home to Baylor 76-74

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03/08/2014 11:41 PM

05/16/2014 12:27 PM

Baylor’s Gary Franklin squared his shoulders, composed himself and stared at the basket as he thought about the shot he was about to take. Then he launched the basketball high into the air and everyone at Bramlage Coliseum turned to see the result.

Standard procedure for a free throw, right? Well, this was a three-pointer.

The Kansas State defense was so out of position while trying to defend the Bears that at one point in the second half, Franklin had ample space and time to shoot. He couldn’t take advantage, missing hard off the back rim, but the ball ended up in the hands of teammate Royce O’Neal, who fought past five K-State players for the rebound.

Perhaps that sequence best illustrates the kind of day it was for the Wildcats, who lost 76-74 on Saturday. Everything appeared to be going their way at halftime, when they led 33-25, but the game spiraled away from there, ending a 15-game home winning streak on senior day.

“It has been a heck of a ride for our group,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Here at home we have won some huge games and played with great energy and passion. Today we just didn’t have it. We woke up a sleeping bear a couple weeks ago when they beat us at their place in a crazy game.”

In many ways, this result mirrored Baylor’s victory over K-State last month in Waco. The Wildcats led by nine at halftime in that game and lost in double overtime.

Once again, Baylor junior guard Kenny Chery was the hero, scoring 29 points. He made eight of 13 shots but did most of his damage at the line, making 13 of 14 free throws. Add on six assists and three steals, and he had a stat line that rivaled his triple-double against K-State in the first meeting.

Cory Jefferson also hurt K-State inside, scoring 16 points. But the Bears got contributions from all over. They dominated the second half by holding the Wildcats to 45 percent from the field and closing out the game by making 17 straight free throws.

The Bears have the talent to beat anyone when they are at their best. And for 20 minutes, at least, they looked like the team that climbed into the top 10 in January instead of the team that slumped to a 2-8 start in the Big 12. By contrast, K-State reverted to its early-season form.

“I don’t think they let up,” Jefferson said. “We switched it over after the second half and came out there and did what we were supposed to do, mainly on the defensive end. We got our stops when we needed them.”

The game turned early in the second half when Baylor forward Isaiah Austin went to the bench after picking up his third foul. K-State led 37-25 at the time, but the Bears reeled off a 21-8 run and took a 46-45 lead behind the inside duo of Rico Gathers.

Austin is a finesse big man, who prefers to play on the perimeter. Gathers likes to bang down low, and he attacked the rim. With Jefferson at his side, K-State struggled to adjust. When it clamped down inside, shooters were wide open on the perimeter. It faced a deficit the rest of the way.

Baylor went on to lead by as many as 10. the Bears’ zone defense caused problems, and K-State struggled to fight back.

“I feel like we let up on the defensive side,” said junior forward Thomas Gipson, who had 16 points and seven rebounds.

Weber added: “I wish I would have had something else to help them, maybe a better zone offense, something to help make a difference.”

Still, freshman guard Marcus Foster almost led K-State back. He made seven three-pointers on his way to 29 points and was unstoppable in the final 5 minutes, making five threes and pulling K-State to within one possession several times. Nino Williams also came through with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

But Baylor made its free throws, and the comeback didn’t materialize. But the Bears flirted with disaster in the closing second, when threw the ball the length of the floor and out of bounds with a 76-74 lead. For a moment, it appeared K-State would get the ball under its own goal with a shot at a game-winning shot. But replays showed Franklin touched the ball on its way out. The Wildcats were left with 0.3 seconds to get the ball up court and score.

The game was over.

Baylor, 21-10 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12, has won seven of eight. It has dramatically improved its NCAA Tournament chances in the last month.

K-State, 20-11 and 10-8, has lost two straight and will try to bounce back at the Big 12 tournament, where it will be the No. 5 seed and face Iowa State in a quarterfinal game Thursday.

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