Kansas State picked up its second win of the season over a Top 10 team Saturday afternoon, defeating No. 2 Baylor 56-54 at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, to improve to 16-7 overall and 5-5 in the Big 12.
It didn't come easily, though, as Kansas State almost blew a 19-point first-half lead when Baylor came all the way back and had a chance to tie or win on its final possession.
Kamau Stokes led Kansas State with 15 points, while Dean Wade added 12 in the winning effort. The Wildcats defense limited Baylor's leading scorer, Johnathan Motley, to 17 points, and no other player reached double digits as the Bears dropped to 20-3 overall and 7-3 in conference play.
This was one of the most surprising results of the season, considering the Wildcats weren't given much of a chance to win after dropping three straight games. According to the ESPN telecast, the network's BPI metric gave Kansas State a 15 percent chance of leaving Baylor with a victory.
But Kansas State was on its game early, shooting a high percentage from the field and three-point range.
The defense gave Baylor fits as well, forcing 10 first-half turnovers, which sparked a 15-0 run that opened a 19-point lead with 4:06 left in the half. Kansas State had a chance to blow the game open even further, but it did not score in the final four minutes of the half.
The defense remained stout, though, as Baylor could muster only four points during that stretch. With a halftime score of 37-22, Baylor was held to its fewest points in a half and its largest halftime deficit this season, per the ESPN telecast.
Kansas State's game plan continued to baffle Baylor in the early portion of the second half, as it held the Bears to just six points in the first nine minutes.
However, Baylor took control of the pace and sped things up, throwing Kansas State off its game. Transition opportunities allowed the Bears to find easy buckets, establish momentum and get the home crowd involved.
They continued to chip away thanks to a 21-7 run that cut the deficit to four with 2:45 left in the game. A minute later, it was down to two after a Jake Lindsey layup. But a wild jumper by Stokes with one second left on the shot clock opened up a little bit of space for Kansas State to work with.
Manu Lecomte answered with a 35-foot three-pointer with 42 seconds remaining to bring the deficit to one, and when D.J. Johnson missed a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left, Baylor had a chance to win the game.
Lecomte, though, hoisted a rushed jumper with 10 seconds remaining that missed everything and was rebounded by Johnson, who was immediately fouled.
He managed to hit one of two to put Kansas State up 56-54. Then the Kansas State defense sealed it, stopping Motley twice in the final six seconds to clinch the win.
It turned out to be a wasted opportunity for Baylor, which could have tied Kansas for first place in the Big 12 after the Jayhawks lost to Iowa State earlier Saturday.
Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber seemed as though he had to convince himself of what had just happened.
"We won the game,” Weber said via Joel Jellison of The Mercury. “We grinded it out. We gutted it out. We just beat one of the top teams in the country on their court."
With Johnson in the thick of things at the end, including his defense on Motley down the stretch, he tried to describe how he handled the final sequence, via Jellison: "I was just doing my best not to foul him and play straight up. He’s a strong guy. I wanted to make sure I played it straight but not give him anything easy.”
Stokes understood how much it did for the Wildcats' postseason resume, via Jellison: "This is a really big win. Especially when you’re talking about RPI. The games we lost we had bad starts. You can’t do that against good teams. This game we didn’t have a bad start.”
But Weber didn't dwell too long on the result, via Jeff Rosen of the Kansas City Star:
Of course, that Monday game is the Wildcats' biggest of the year when it welcomes in-state rival Kansas into Manhattan.
However, the Jayhawks will be keen on displaying a strong performance given their Saturday loss to Iowa State.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.