Wildcats knock off Bears 57-56

18 Feb

Back on Jan. 10, Baylor dealt the Wildcats a crushing loss on their home court. On Saturday afternoon, Kansas State returned the favor in Waco with a 57-56 upset over the No. 9 Bears.

It was an R&R special: a little revenge against Baylor, and a little redemption for freshman Angel Rodriguez, who against Kansas went 0-8 from the field with 7 turnovers.

Undaunted, Rodriguez bounced back against Baylor and led his team with 15 points, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds in a Big 12 road win that many say will punch the team’s ticket to the NCAA tournament.

“He’s a fighter,” coach Frank Martin said. “He’s a gutsy kid. He’s got a lot of confidence.”

Rodney McGruder also scored 15 points, and Jordan Henriquez added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Henriquez turned the ball over just once and proved to be a major disruption to the Baylor offense in the paint. His final basket, on a feed from Rodriguez, sealed the Kansas State victory and moved the Wildcats to 18-8 on the season and 7-7 in Big 12 play.

“Jordan went through that little stretch where obviously I did what I had to do to try to get his attention, and he’s responded real well,” Martin said. “He’s a good player. He’s worked so hard to make himself a young man that can impact our game in a positive way.”

The Wildcats fought through a deficit for much of the first half before finally taking a lead two minutes before the break, but they went down early in the second half when they lost track of guard Brady Heslip, who proceeded to wreak havoc from beyond the arc.

Heslip quickly reversed the Wildcats’ 32-28 halftime lead by hitting three 3-pointers in the first couple minutes of the second half to give the Bears a 39-35 advantage.

Jamar Samuels cut the lead to one point with a 3-pointer of his own. The teams traded baskets fairly consistently until Kansas State led 46-45 with 9:25 left in the game.

Samuels grabbed a rebound, but Pierre Jackson grabbed it and yanked it out of Samuels’ hands. Samuels grabbed at the ball – and consequently, Jackson – and apparently said something after referees called the foul on him, so he was also slapped with a technical.

Heslip made both the technical foul free throws, and a made jumper by Pierre Jackson on the Bears’ next possession gave them a 49-46 lead.

From there, Kansas State went on a 9-2 run to gain a 55-51 lead with three minutes to play.

“Our rule is anytime the ball goes in the middle of the zone, you shoot it or pass it. You don’t dribble it,” Martin said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job of attacking their zone. We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we made enough.”

Baylor scored back-to-back baskets to take a 56-55 lead, but Rodriguez got the ball to Henriquez for a score that would be the game-winner.

In the first half Baylor jumped out to an 8-2 lead thanks to a variety of scoring: layups from Jackson and Heslip, two free throws from Quincy Miller and a dunk by Quincy Acy. Kansas State caught up before too long as Henriquez employed his face-up jumper and Rodriguez continued to charge into the lane and get layups.

From there, the Bears ran out to an 18-9 lead. As McGruder found a rhythm, though, so did the Wildcats. Starting with his first basket at the 8:39 mark, McGruder added 10 points down the stretch, scoring as many points himself as the Baylor offense did from that point on. Kansas State outscored the Bears 23-10 in nearly 9 minutes between McGruder’s initial score and halftime.

It took awhile for Kansas State to overtake the home team, however. The Wildcats struggled to get rebounds and find an offensive groove early, but  a 3-pointer by McGruder gave Kansas State its first lead of the game, 25-24, with 2:03 to go before halftime.

A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Samuels – his first field goal of the game – gave the Wildcats a 4-point advantage heading into the locker room.

Next up for the Wildcats is No. 3 Missouri in Columbia.

Constantly pestered about the implications of upcoming games on Kansas State’s NCAA tournament hopes, Martin said the team focuses on the next game and nothing more. That mentality, at least on Saturday, resulted in just the ninth road win over a top 10 team in program history.

“We don’t change our approach,” Martin said. “At the end of the day, you can’t do those things unless you’ve got kids who believe in the message, because they’re got to be able to execute it and execute it at 100 miles per hour.”

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