Twice inside the final 15 seconds Tuesday, Kansas State tried to get Rodney McGruder the ball with the hopes of tying or winning the game against No. 4 Baylor.
Both attempts were unsuccessful and the 18th-ranked Wildcats couldn’t get the shot they wanted, losing to the Bears 75-73 at Bramlage Coliseum.
“I wanted the ball,” said McGruder, who was 10-of-14 from the field with six rebounds. “We ran a play where I could have got the ball if I was open. We tried to make a play at the rim by throwing a lob and we just came up short.”
McGruder, who scored a career-high 30 points in the loss, had to settle for the spectator role in the closing seconds of a game that seemed to belong to the Wildcats multiple times throughout.
“I just wanted the victory,” said McGruder, who is averaging 21.4 points over his last five games. “That is all that is going through my mind. We were close and we just gave it away. We had the lead — we got lackadaisical with the ball. We acted like we were trying to come back and not take care of the ball when we had the lead.”
McGruder had the hot hand all night, supplying K-State (12-3, 1-2 Big 12) with the big shots it needed to stay with the Bears, who are one of only three undefeated teams remaining.
“He is their best player,” Bears’ senior forward Quincy Acy said. “Good players make great plays. We have to play better the next time.”
And while the junior guard had a career night, McGruder didn’t get a lot of help elsewhere, as Jordan Henriquez was the only other Wildcat to finish in double figures with 12 points.
The rest of the starting lineup — Jamar Samuels, Martavious Irving and Will Spradling — combined to score just 18 points. The K-State bench was even less effective as four other players combined to net only 13 points.
During one stretch in the second half, McGruder scored 11 of the Wildcats’ 15 points to tie the game at 65 apiece. The Washington D.C. native found the bottom of the net by making all six free throw tries, a short jumper and a clutch 3-pointer during the run.
“There was a lot of focus on him, he is a heck of a player and did a heck of a job all night long,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We didn’t have many answers for him.”
But Baylor did have answers for the rest of the Wildcats, who go to Oklahoma on Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. tip-off.
K-State, which shot 50 percent from the field, buried itself all night with careless turnovers, often ending up with Bears streaking down the court for open layups or dunks.
The Wildcats, who led by two at halftime, turned the ball over 20 times, 13 of which came off steals by the Bears (16-0, 3-0).
“The guys wearing our uniforms threw the ball to the guys wearing their uniform so they could go down and dunk,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “It’s hard to play good offense and it’s hard to play defense and then throw the ball to the other team so they can go down and dunk the ball.”