MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)Kansas State coach Jerome Tang leaped onto the courtside table and pumped his fists, then landed a spectacular dismount, before climbing into the student section and joining in the ”Wabash Cannonball” dance to celebrate another ranked win.
This one was as special as any of them.
Keyontae Johnson scored 25 points, Markquis Nowell added 14 points and 10 assists, and the No. 14 Wildcats followed a long first-half slump with a big second-half run to beat ninth-ranked Baylor 75-65 on Tuesday night.
In doing so, they gave their first-year coach a season sweep of Tang’s former team and his longtime mentor, Scott Drew.
”I tried to tell y’all I’m athletic,” said Tang, who spent 19 years on the Baylor bench and helped bring a national title to Waco, Texas. ”They were arguably the hottest team in the league, except the second half of the last game and this game.”
Cam Carter added 10 points for the Wildcats (21-7, 9-6 Big 12), who trailed 34-31 at the break before their 18-4 charge gave them control. They coasted from there to a school record-tying seventh win over a ranked team this season.
The last two – against Iowa State and Baylor – came after the Wildcats had lost four of five.
”I thought it was another typical Big 12 game,” Drew said. ”K-State played like you’re supposed to on your home court. I thought Keyontae Johnson, we really had trouble matching up with him pretty much all night, and then Nowell struggled from the field but 10 assists, zero turnovers. That’s why they’re first-team all-leaguers.”
Keyonte George hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points to lead Baylor (20-8, 9-6), which had won seven of its last eight against the Wildcats and three straight in Manhattan. LJ Cryer added four 3s and finished with 16 points.
”You know, it comes back to all of us. It’s a team effort,” George said. ”We just have to play harder, including myself.”
Baylor was coming off an 87-71 loss at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday in which the Bears were phenomenal in the first half, building a 17-point lead, and dreadful in the second, when they were outscored 55-26 while looking listless and lost.
The Bears’ kept that Jekyll-and-Hyde act going Tuesday night.
Their sluggish finish in Lawrence carried over to the opening 13 minutes in Manhattan, when the Wildcats were able to methodically build a 24-13 lead. But after Drew called a timeout, his guys answered with a 3-pointer fueled 21-3 run over the next 6-plus minutes, allowing Baylor to take a 34-31 advantage into the break.
Cryer did most of the damage, going 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and scoring 11 first-half points.
”We did a really good job early and we messed up on some ball-screen coverages and they were able to make some 3s,” Tang said. ”At halftime the team said, `Coach, if we do this it’ll make it better for us.’ And the fact that they were thinking about how the problems were taking place and they came up with the solution, that was big time.”
Whatever the change, it certainly worked.
The Bears still led 40-37 in the opening minutes of the second half when Johnson scored back-to-back baskets to give Kansas State the lead. David N’Guessan kept the charge going, and it eventually reached 18-4 when Carter took a turnover by the Bears’ Caleb Lohner for a dunk that made it 55-44 with just over 8 minutes left in the game.
”It’s hard to stop transition offense, especially off turnovers,” Carter said. ”We capitalized on that.”
The Wildcats stretched their lead to as many as 14 points before wrapping up the season sweep of the Bears.
”It started in practice,” Nowell said. ”Whenever we’re in practice, we come with that energy. We have a good scout, we play well. We’ve been focusing on practice a lot more, focusing on the defensive side, and we got two wins to show for it.”
Baylor struggled to find some help for George and Cryer on offense. Adam Flagler missed his first nine shots and finished with four points on 1-for-13 shooting, and Jalen Bridges had just six points while dealing with foul trouble all night.
Kansas State overcame a poor night from the 3-point arc (4 of 21) by dominating the guard-heavy Bears with a 42-16 edge in the paint. Many of those points came in transition, where the Wildcats had a 19-5 advantage off turnovers.
Baylor returns home to play eighth-ranked Texas on Saturday.
Kansas State visits Oklahoma State the same day.
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