Kansas State senior Jordan Henriquez hasn’t been counted on this season when it’s come to making free throws. His free-throw shooting has been so off this season — he’s been hitting just 30.2 percent of them — it’s usually a safe bet the 6-foot-11 center will miss. So, when Henriquez made two in the Wildcats’ 81-61 win over Baylor Saturday night in Bramlage Coliseum, it may have signaled he was in the zone.
Henriquez — who hit the 40 percent mark with a 2 of 5 night at the charity stripe — was key in the battle against the Bears’ big men. He posted his first double-double of the season with 10 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two assists.
Overall, K-State outscored a very athletic and large Baylor squad in the paint 34-20.
“Some of it is that he’s better against bigger guys — I don’t think there is any doubt (about that),” Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber said about Henriquez. “He just got going. It was positive and (Thomas) Gipson struggled a little bit and Gip kept smiling and being happy and he’s happy JO did well.
“Gip has had his moments, and this was (Jordan’s).”
Weber said the defensive play of Henriquez fueled his game.
“I just like that he got rebounds, he blocked shots and was a backstop to our defense,” Weber said. “JO started to figure out that he needed to stay back, then he was able to deal with the easy layups. He (also) contested a dunk.”
Henriquez was really feeling it with 8:18 to play in the game just after KSU fought back a 14-5 Baylor run that opened the second half.
Henriquez brought the Bramlage crowd to its feet with a thunderous dunk assisted by Angel Rodriguez and while the gym was still cheering it, he raced back down to the other end of the floor and swatted away a layup by BU’s Brady Heslip with similar authority.
The cheers were especially loud after that.
Bears head coach Scott Drew is very aware of the danger Henriquez brings against his team. Henriquez has put in many of his biggest games against Baylor. After all, his career points record of 22 points and nine field goals were posted against the Bears last season in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
“We’re not going to wear our Baylor uniforms next time we play him,” Drew said. “Because he looks like a million bucks (every time we play him). I think he’s tremendous.
“Our last game in the (conference) tournament he had 22 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Today he wasn’t far off and he altered a lot of shots, so for some reason, he really plays well against us and is a good player.”
Henriquez said he enjoys the challenge Baylor’s bigs often bring, and that making a free throw to start the second half boosted his confidence.
“Definitely,” he said about the make. “I do put the time in, to make them. The percentage can speak for itself, but I felt real good (after that).
“It feels good to (have a game like this) against the great talent that Baylor has. I try to take advantage against guys my size. I take it as a challenge. I know that (Drew) brings in guys year in, year out, whether they are one-and-done or not, I know that I’m going to get a great challenge — and that (line of thought) should be every night for me.”
Henriquez acknowledged the realization his number of games left as a Wildcat are dwindling, and Weber hopes that realization is ever present the rest of the way as the NCAA tournament looms closer.
“I hope and pray (that’s the case),” Weber said. “He came with some great energy and we’ve emphasized to him that this season is going by fast. Baseball has opened up Spring Training and that means the tournament isn’t far away. You better get it hitched up as soon as you can and be a part of it.”