It was set up to be a classic finish for Kansas State’s senior class.
With less than one second left and Baylor leading by two, Bears’ forward Royce O’Neale heaved a full-court pass that soared out of bounds, just like last season when the Wildcats defeated Baylor on a last-second 3-pointer from Rodney McGruder.
After a lengthy review, officials determined Baylor’s Gary Franklin had tipped the ball before it went out, giving the ball back to K-State with 0.3 seconds remaining.
But there were no miracles Saturday, as the Bears hung on to win this one, 76-74, and sour the Wildcats’ senior day.
(Kansas State coach Bruce Weber reacts to a call during the Wildcats’ loss to Baylor in the home finale on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.)
It was K-State’s first home loss since Nov. 8 and Baylor became the only Big 12 team to sweep the season series with the Wildcats this season.
The Wildcats will play as the No. 5 seed in the Big 12 tournament, beginning Thursday at 11:30 a.m. against Iowa State.
K-State (20-11, 10-8 Big 12) had its chances throughout the game, leading by eight at halftime and 12 early in the second half, but Baylor just wouldn’t go away.
Midway through the second half, Baylor (21-10, 9-9) turned in a 17-3 run to go ahead 53-46 with 6:18 to play.
“They made plays,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “It just seemed like they had every answer. They just seemed to make all the plays at the right time.”
With the Wildcats trailing by seven, Marcus Foster — who had a team-high 29 points — broke Baylor’s big run with his second 3-pointer of the second half.
But Brady Heslip extended the lead back with a 3 of his own. Sandwiched around Foster’s 3, Wesley Iwundu and Shane Southwell combined to make just 2 of 7 from the free-throw line.
Weber said it was a stretch that hurt his team at the end.
“We’re 19 for 27, but you go 1 for 6 in one stretch — that’s a killer — especially when they were making them all,” he said. “I don’t know if we got uptight a little bit. We’ve been in this situation so many times, where it’s been a close game in the stretch run, five, eight minutes left in the game. And we missed free throws.”
With 2:39 left and K-State down by eight, Foster hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to five. A few possessions later, Foster hit back-to-back treys to trip the lead to four with 43 seconds to play.
Foster made his final 3 of the game — giving him seven in all — with 7.1 seconds remaining to get it back to a two-point game at 74-72.
“We didn’t quit,” Weber said. “Marcus, we jumped on his back. He didn’t have a whole bunch going until the last 3 1/2 minutes, but man, he kept putting pressure on them.”
Foster said in a close game he felt the team needed a spark. After opening the second half with a 3-pointer, Foster attempted just two shots for the next 14 minutes. But when he started to shoot again, the shots kept falling.
He finished 9 of 16 from the field, including 7 of 11 from behind the arc.
“(He’s) a pro,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “He’s that good.”
Leading by 12 points early in the second half, Weber said he felt like the team might have let off the gas. Forward Thomas Gipson said the defense didn’t play as well as it did the first 20 minutes.
“I feel like we let up on the defensive side,” he said. “They started isolating Cory Jefferson, he started getting fouls and free throws and it gave him confidence. Brady got open a couple times in the second half, and that gave him confidence. Once they got the ball rolling it was hard to stop.”
(Kansas State guard Will Spradling tries to get around Baylor’s Isaiah Austin on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.)
The Wildcats put together an early 9-0 run in the game to lead 13-4. But Baylor outscored them 17-10 over the next eight minutes to cut the lead to two. K-State outscored the Bears 10-4 the rest of the half.
But after the Wildcats took a 12-point lead in the second half, Baylor guard Kenny Cherry, who led the Bears with 29 points, said they turned up their aggressiveness and took the momentum.
“It was just our desire to come out and be aggressive,” Cherry said of the comeback. “We didn’t come out the first half as we wanted. We just came out second half with the dedication of playing hard, being more aggressive on defense and just running our offense.”
Baylor had it’s troubles at the free-throw line in the first half, making just 3 of 8. But the Bears finished the game making 17 straight at the foul line, finding their answer to every K-State bucket down the stretch.
And while the final play of the game gave both coaches déjà vu from last season’s game in Waco, Texas, this time it came out on Baylor’s end.
“It was crazy,” Drew said. “Proud that Gary tracked it down.”
Gipson finished with 16 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats, while Nino Williams had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jefferson scored 16 for the Bears.