MANHATTAN, Kan. – No. 14/12 Kansas State rallied from a halftime deficit for the second consecutive game with a dominant second-half performance as the Wildcats tied the school-record for AP Top 25 wins with seven in a 75-65 win over No. 9/10 Baylor on Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 11,000 at Bramlage Coliseum.
Down 34-31 at the break, K-State (21-7, 9-6 Big 12) scored 44 points in the second half on 57.7 percent (15-of-26) shooting with 22 coming in the paint. For the game, the Wildcats connected on 48.3 percent (28-of-58) of their field goals, including 64.9 percent (24-of-37) inside the 3-point arc, and held a decisive 42-16 advantage in the paint. The team posted a season-low 7 turnovers, while dishing out 20 assists on 28 made field goals with senior Markquis Nowell collecting a game-high 10 assists without a turnover.
Senior Keyontae Johnson led three Wildcats in double figures with a game-high 25 points on 11-of-17 field goals, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Overall, it was a balanced all-around night for K-State, as seven of the eight players who saw action had at least two made field goals. Joining Johnson in double figures was Nowell with 14 points to go with his game-high 10 assists and sophomore Cam Carter, who added 10 points on 5-of-11 field goals. It was Nowell’s 14th career double-double, including his school-record ninth at K-State and his sixth this season.
The 7 wins vs. AP Top 25 opponents tied the record originally set in 2009-10. In addition, the Wildcats posted their third top-10 victory, including their second at home, as they moved to 14-1 at Bramlage Coliseum.
The win also helped K-State stay in the Big 12 title race, moving into a third-place tie with Baylor (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) and 2 games behind co-leaders Kansas (23-5, 11-4 Big 12) and Texas (22-6, 11-4 Big 12) with 3 games left.
The Wildcats led by 10 points with just over 7 minutes to play in the first half before the Bears got hot from 3-point range to take a 34-26 lead with 1:32 to play before halftime. Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin was able to go on a personal 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 34-31 to give the squad some momentum heading into halftime.
A 3-pointer by Johnson tied the game at 34-all on the first possession of the second half, as K-State snatched the lead for good on back-to-back jump shots by their senior with 15:29 to play. The consecutive baskets started a 12-3 run by the Wildcats, which included points from junior David N’Guessan, Nowell and Carter, that extended the lead to 49-43 and forced Baylor head coach Scott Drew to call a timeout with 12:19 remaining.
K-State kept the pressure on out of the timeout, scoring 3 consecutive baskets all from different players to push the lead to 55-44 and force another Baylor timeout with just over 8 to play. The lead grew to as many as 14 points after a pair of Nowell free throws at the 4:23 mark, as he finished off the Wildcats’ scoring from the line with 6 consecutive makes as part of a perfect 10-of-10 performance.
As impressive as the offense was in the second half, the defense was equally as impressive, as the Wildcats held the Big 12’s second-best scoring offense (78.5 ppg.) and the best in Big 12 play (77.4 ppg.) to 65 points on 40 percent shooting, including 39.3 percent (11-of-28) from 3-point range. The Bears scored just 31 points after halftime on 37 percent (10-of-27) shooting, including 33.3 percent (5-of-15) from long range.
Expected Big 12 Freshman of the Year Keyonte George paced three Baylor players in double figures with 23 points on 7-of-15 field goals, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, while junior L.J. Cryer added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 from long range. Senior Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua notched a double-double with 11 points and game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.
The win enabled K-State to sweep the season series for the first time since 2019, as the Wildcats evened the all-time series with the Bears at 25 wins apiece.
IN THEIR WORDS
Head Coach Jerome Tang
On the game…
“First of all, man, I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is like a dream come true and it’s not who we played, or winning that, but the environment tonight, and you know, just to turn out, the crowd, the energy. I mean, it’s every coach’s dream to be able to compete in that kind of environment. And then watch your guys be energized by the crowd and I thought our guys had energy tonight. And we executed, we didn’t turn the ball over. And you know when they made a run, we responded, just so proud of them. Within the team, there’s always adversity and things that happen and life throws things at you, and you’ve got to respond to it. And today, I won’t go into it but there was some adversity that was thrown our way outside of our own doing or anything that we could control and just to watch the guys rally around each other and really support each other and get this win tonight was just a strong testament to the character and the type of people that they are.”
On the team’s defensive performance…
“I thought in the first half we did a really good job early and then we messed up on some ball screen coverages and they were able to make some threes and at halftime the team said, ‘Coach, I think if we do this, it will make it easier for us or better for us.’ So, the fact that they were thinking about where the problems were taking place, and they came up with the solution. I mean, that was big time. And so then in the second half they went out and executed the thing that they said they wanted to do.”
On if the two home wins have rejuvenated the team…
“There’s just no substitute for being able to play at home in front of your own fans and all that. I went back and looked at the Big 12 schedule because when teams play back-to-back road games, it’s hard to win that second one. I think the school up the road (Kansas) was the only one that won back-to-back road games. And then we did it early in the (Big) 12 and they did early in the (Big) 12, but once you hit February and the grind and stuff it’s just hard that second game. I thought early in the second half they didn’t have energy and I was hoping we can get some separation. But then we let them back in the game, but we were able to do it in the second half.”
On tying a school record of AP Top-25 wins…
“We are blessed. God is just, it’s not me, I’ve got a terrific staff, we’ve got a great team and God’s just been like really, really good to us. When you see those numbers, it is really crazy because it took a while to be able to accumulate those type of numbers when we started at Baylor. And so, I don’t take it lightly that we’ve had this kind of success early and I know that it’s a testament to the faithfulness of God and His favor on our program.”
On how the team stays locked in after the two wins…
“It’s not about locked in. I don’t think it’s ever about locked in. It’s about whether we have legs or not right now and whether we’re fresh or not. And so, they’ve got two days off. I’m gonna see them on Thursday night. We’re gonna have a short, concise prep. We’re not going to tax their body a lot. But what we do is, we’re gonna go hard, and it’s gonna be very short so that we’re fresh, and then we’re gonna go down to Oklahoma State and give them our very best, but they’re another team that you know, I mean, they’re just really, really good. And so, we’re gonna see but there’s only been once or twice this year where I didn’t think that we were like locked in. You know, these guys care and they love each other, and they do their darndest. Sometimes to try to win and do stuff they make mistakes and so that’s just part of this whole thing, but they’ve always been locked in.”
Senior Markquis Nowell
On getting off to a good start in the second half…
“I mean, it’s a blessing. Let me start off by saying God is good. Just know when we were losing it could have went either way. But we bounced back, and we had tremendous faith in him. So, I want to give him all the credit and all the honor. But ten assists, zero turnovers. The game plan for me was just to come out here and be poised you know get my guys the ball. The way that Baylor plays defense you know, they try to overplay a lot so that’s why a lot of backdoor lobs and backdoor layups was open today. And I was just reading the defense you know, taking whatever they gave me.”
On the defensive performance…
“It was really big, it just opened up a game for me just hitting my shots early and making the defense react when I’m driving. I was kicking out to the other teammates trying to give them overloads and help them get open shots today. So, I think overall it just all worked out in my favor.”
On how fun this game was…
“Man, it’s real fun, especially when you could get a win in front of your home crowd, back-to-back wins. It’s just fun. It gives you confidence going into a road hostile environment. We needed this, we earned this. We put in the work, when things were going bad, we adjusted, and we looked over our mistakes. It’s good to be back on the winning side.”
Senior Keyontae Johnson
On his playing today…
“The coaches just told me to play free and just have fun out there. I was just wanting to get the win, just trying to get two back-to-back wins, we haven’t had that in a while so just trying to do everything to get a win tonight.”
On finishing the season out strong…
“It’s always good playing in front of your fan base. So, I feel like just knowing that the regular season comes to an end just trying to give it all we got out there and just have fun. No telling what can happen next. So, I was just trying to finish out strong, finish the conference out strong and have good momentum heading into the Big 12 Tournament.”
Sophomore Cam Carter
On playing out of transition in the second half…
“It’s hard to stop transition offense off misses and turnovers so we know we capitalize on that, push the ball when we had the opportunity. And got some buckets.”
On his dunk…
“I saw the rim wide open, nobody under there, so I went up. I thought I was gonna lay the ball up because Markquis (Nowell) did too. So, I had to dunk it just for him.”
On scoring different ways…
“You know it helps my team first, and it just helps me score different ways, put up shots in different kind of ways. Like Markquis (Nowell) said they play aggressive and opens backdoors so I was just playing smart.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- With the win, K-State pushes its record to 21-7 overall, including 9-6 in Big 12 play… The win guarantees a non-losing record in Big 12 play for the first time since 2018-19.
- K-State earned its seventh AP Top 25 win of the season, which ties the school-record set originally by the 2009-10 team… It is the third Top 10 win, including the second at home.
- K-State moved to 15-1 in home games, including 14-1 at Bramlage Coliseum… The 14 wins at Bramlage Coliseum are the most since winning 14 in 2017-18.
- K-State collected its seventh sellout of the season at Bramlage Coliseum (all in Big 12 play)… It is the most sellouts at Bramlage Coliseum since posting 9 in 2014-15.
- K-State swept the season series from Baylor for the first time since 2019, as the Wildcats tied the all-time series at 25 wins apiece… K-State is now 13-11 at home, including 10-11 at Bramlage Coliseum.
- K-State scored its 75 points on 48.3 percent (28-of-58) shooting, including 19 percent (4-of-21) from 3-point range, while connecting on 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the free throw line… The team hit on 64.9 percent (24-of-37) of its field goals inside the 3-point line.
- K-State had 20 assists on its 28 made field goals, as 4 players had at least 2 assists.
- K-State scored 42 of its 75 points in the paint… It marked the 10th time this season that the Wildcats have scored 40 or more points in the paint, including the fifth time in Big 12 play.
- K-State had a season-low 7 turnovers, which were the fewest since having 5 at Ole Miss on Jan. 29, 2022.
- K-State took advantage of Baylor’s 13 turnovers, scoring 19 points.
- Baylor held a slight 35-33 advantage on the glass, including 11 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 12 second-chance points… The Wildcats are 4-4 when losing the rebounding battle.
- Baylor led 34-31 at half on the strength of a late 10-1 run… Junior L.J. Cryer led all scorers with 11 points in the first half… Senior Keyontae Johnson led the Wildcats with 9 points, while junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 8 points and a game-high 6 rebounds.
- K-State is now 8-4 this season when trailing at the half.
- Three Wildcats scored in double figures, including a game-high 25 points for senior Keyontae Johnson… It was 16th career 20-point game, including his team-leading eighth as a Wildcat this season… He has scored in double figures in 27 of 28 games this season.
- Johnson scored his 25 points on 11-of-17 field goals, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, to go with 4 assists in 39 minutes… He now has 65 career double-digit scoring games.
- Senior Markquis Nowell collected his school-record sixth double-double (points/assists) of the season with 14 points and a game-high 10 assists (with 0 turnovers) … He now has 14 career double-doubles (all points/assists), including a school-record 9 as a Wildcat… He went just 2-of-11 from the field, including 0-of-6 from 3-point range, but went a perfect 10-of-10 from the line… He has now made 30 consecutive free throws… He has scored double figures in 91 career games, including 44 at K-State and 25 in 2022-23.
- Sophomore Cam Carter earned his sixth double-digit scoring game of the season with 10 points on 5-of-11 field goals, including 5-of-6 inside the 3-point arc, to go with a season-tying 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 33 minutes… He now has 8 career double-digit scoring games.
- Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin had a near double-double with 8 points on 3-of-8 shooting with a game-tying 8 rebounds in under 20 minutes.
K-State plays two of its final three Big 12 games on the road beginning on Saturday afternoon when the Wildcats travel to Stillwater, Okla., to take Oklahoma State (16-12, 7-8 Big 12) at 1 p.m., CT on ESPNU. The Wildcats won the first meeting, 65-57, at home on Jan. 10.