Over the past two games, Kansas State has built a wall around the opponents’ basket. At the foundation of that wall has been Jordan Henriquez.
The 7-foot junior has nine blocks during his last two games, rejecting the shots of some of the best big men in college basketball during that stretch. It’s probably no coincidence that during those two games, K-State has held two top-10 teams to a combined 39 percent from the floor, 30.7 percent from 3 and 57.5 points
“He’s been awesome,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “His enthusiasm — he’s having fun again.”
Henriquez, now tied for the school record for a career with 121 blocked shots, made some of the game’s biggest plays in the Wildcats’ 57-56 victory over No. 9 Baylor on Saturday. Henriquez scored K-State’s first four points to open Saturday’s contest, then scored five of his team’s final eight points to end it.
With the Wildcats trailing 51-49, Henriquez converted a three-point play, somehow tipping an ally-oop pass off the glass and through the net, all while being knocked to the floor by Perry Jones III (Jones fouled out on the play) with 5:05 remaining.
Baylor recovered to take a 56-55 advantage on a Pierre Jackson 3-pointer with 2:12 remaining. But the Wildcats answered when Henriquez snuck behind Baylor’s zone defense and stuffed home a lob from Angel Rodriguez to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
The reason that lead held up was largely due to Henriquez. With 1:32 left, he rejected Quincy Acy’s shot near the basket, then grabbed the defensive rebound. On the other end, he got an offensive board with 55 seconds left that allowed K-State to milk the clock down to less than 30 seconds.
Then, with everything on the line, where one shot could have sent the Wildcats home with another gut-wrenching close loss, Henriquez defended Quincy Miller’s shot in the paint, even getting a hand on the ball, as the shot bounced off the iron in the final seconds.
“Those are the kind of plays you’ve got to make to win the game,” Henriquez said. “In that possession, that’s the play we came up with.”
Martin said Henriquez is doing exactly what they need him to do right now.
“He protected the rim on defense, which is what we need him to do all the time,” he said. “Then he made big-time plays on offense, not just the three-point play, but then that offensive rebound that gets us that extra possession, which allows us to shorten the clock even more.”
Henriquez blocked six shots in a loss to Kansas on Monday, and against the Bears, he scored nine points while leading his team with seven rebounds and three blocks.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can to help my team win,” Henriquez said. “From the jump ball, it was all about intensity and matching their intensity. Whenever they made their run we stayed the course. That’s what Coach always preaches is about staying the course. When a team punches us we’ve got to punch them back and that was our main focus (against Baylor).”
If that type of play from Henriquez continues, then the Wildcats will likely be a much better team.
“If he keeps playing that way, he’s going to find himself making a tremendous, positive impact on our team down the stretch here,” Martin said.