KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas State went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s top-ranked team for nearly 40 minutes before succumbing to top-seed and No. 2/2 Baylor, 74-68, in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships on Thursday afternoon at the T-Mobile Center.
The Wildcats (9-20) trailed just 55-52 after freshman Nijel Pack drained a 3-pointer with 10:07 to play, but the veteran Bears (22-1) rattled off 8 of the next 9 points to push the lead into double figures at 63-53 and then held off a late rally by the Wildcats to secure the win in the waning minutes.
The All-American backcourt of senior MaCio Teague (24) and juniors Davion Mitchell (23) and Jared Butler (18) combined for 65 of Baylor’s 74 points on 23-of-40 field goals, including 8-of-20 from 3-point range. The trio helped the Bears connect on 53.1 percent (26-of-49) from the field, including 40.9 percent (9-of-22) from long range.
K-State was led by its young core of freshmen Davion Bradford (18) and Pack (18) as well as sophomore DaJuan Gordon (15) who combined for 51 points on 17-of-31 field goals. Bradford scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, in which, the Wildcats trailed just 36-34 at halftime. Pack scored all 18 of his points from beyond the arc, knocking down six 3-pointers, which were the most by a Wildcat in more than 15 years at the Big 12 Championship since Lance Harris had seven against Kansas on March 11, 2005.
K-State finished at 40.7 percent (22-of-54) from the field, including 40 percent (8-of-20) from 3-point range. The team opened the game by shooting 46.2 percent (12-of-26) in the first half, but the Bears changed their defense at halftime and held them to just 35.7 percent (10-of-28) in the second half.
The game was a microcosm of the improvement that the young Wildcats have made in the last month, in which, they have recovered from a 13-game losing streak to win 4 of their last 6 games with both losses coming to Top 15 foes West Virginia and Baylor. Blown out twice by the Bears in the regular season, including a school-record 48-point loss in Waco on January 27, the Wildcats held multiple leads in the game, including 42-41 with just over 17 minutes to play. However, the more experienced Bears found an answer down the stretch.
Baylor now moves on to the semifinals to play No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (19-7) on Friday.
K-State got down as much as 7 points early, but rallied behind the play of reserve Rudi Williams, whose 3-pointer ignited a 7-0 run that tied the game at 16-all midway through the first half.
Baylor went back ahead on the next possession behind a 3-pointer from junior Matthew Mayer, but the Wildcats rallied to tie it at 25-all on a 3-pointer from freshman Nijel Pack with 5:59 before halftime. However, the Bears responded with a pair of timely triples from Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague less than a minute later.
The Wildcats continued to battle the rest of the half, closing to within a possession multiple times down the stretch before trailing 36-34 at the halftime break.
The two teams traded the lead in the opening moments of the second half, including consecutive 3-pointers by Pack and layup by fellow freshman Selton Miguel, which gave K-State a 42-41 lead with 17:01 to play. However, a 10-2 run by Baylor pushed the lead to 51-44 capped by a Mitchell 3-pointer to force a timeout by head coach Bruce Weber with 13:19 remaining.
Another 3-pointer by Pack gave the Wildcats a spark out of the timeout and start an 8-4 run that closed the gap to 55-52 midway through the second half. But once again, the Bears had a response, scoring 8 of the next 9 points to push the lead into double figures at 63-53 with 7:50 to play.
The resilient Wildcats had one last rally in them, closing the deficit to 70-66 on Pack’s sixth 3-pointer of the game with just over a minute to play. A bad pass by Pack ended any chance to cut the lead even further, as the Bears hit 4 free throws in the last 18 seconds to stave off the upset and earn the 74-68 victory.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Freshman Davion Bradford tied his career-high with 18 points on 6-of-9 field goals and a 6-of-8 effort from the free throw line in just over 30 minutes. It marked his fourth time leading the team in scoring.
Freshman Nijel Pack tied Bradford with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-11 field goals, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, in 33 minutes. The six 3-pointers were the second-most he has tallied this season.
Sophomore DaJuan Gordon scored 15 points on 5-of-11 field goals and a perfect 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line to go with 5 rebounds and a game-high 4 steals in 34 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
65 – The All-American backcourt of senior MaCio Teague (24) and juniors Davion Mitchell (23) and Jared Butler (18) combined for 65 of the Bears’ 74 points on 23-of-40 field goals, including 8-of-20 from 3-point range.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the game…
“We wanted to win. We came here with big dreams and hopes. But at the same time, you know, I told the guys all I cared about was playing with courage, and courage means — because the first two times we played them they didn’t just beat us, they just played with us and did whatever they wanted. We just played with one of the best teams. We played on a turnaround of, what, 14, 15 hours with not a whole lot of prep with playing a hard-fought game last night, and gave them everything we had. I’ve said it all along, I didn’t want the season to end because I think we’re actually playing high level basketball. We could compete with anybody. We just showed it. But you hope you use this as a momentum going into the next season. I’m proud of them, happy for them. I appreciate Mike McGuirl’s leadership. I appreciate that the group stayed together. They believed us and they got better. And I mean, we gave a team that has three elite players, probably three NBA player guards, and turned them over 21 times. I’m proud of the two freshmen – Davion (Bradford) and Nijel (Pack). I think they made a nice statement the last two days after not getting picked on any of those (all-conference freshman teams). But, you know, proud of them, but obviously disappointed that it’s ending and disappointing that maybe we could have had a little bit of a miracle here and found a way to win and done something really, really special. But it didn’t happen.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State finishes the season at 9-20… The Wildcats won 4 of their last 6 after a 13-game losing streak.
- K-State is now 37-42 all-time in Big Eight/12 Championship play, including 17-24 in the Big 12 era… The Wildcats are now 1-3 as a No. 9 seed in their first appearance since 2006… The team is now 7-11 in the quarterfinals… K-State is now 2-14 all-time against the No. 1 seed with 9 straight defeats.
- K-State played its 13th Top 25 opponent of the season, which is the second-most by a team in school history and the most since the 2015-16 team played a school-record 14.
- K-State is now 120-274 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including a 7-19 mark vs. the AP’s No. 2 ranked team… The team is 1-12 vs. Top 25 in 2020-21, including 1-5 vs. Top 10.
- K-State is now 23-23 all-time vs. Baylor, including 3-2 at the Big 12 Championships… The Bears own a 22-18 lead in the Big 12 era, including wins in 5 consecutive wins in the series.
- The Wildcats’ starting lineup consisted of freshman Nijel Pack, senior Mike McGuirl, sophomore DaJuan Gordon, freshman Selton Miguel, and freshman Davion Bradford… This is the most used starting lineup, having been used in 11 games… This is the 17th time this season that the Wildcats have started 3 true freshmen… McGuirl has now started all 29 games this season and has the longest current active start streak at 34 games… He is the only player to start all 29 games.
- K-State scored its 68 points on 40.7 percent (22-of-54) shooting, including 40.0 percent (8-of-20) from 3-point range, while connecting on 80 percent (16-of-20) from the free throw line.
- Baylor scored its 74 points on 53.1 percent (26-of-49) shooting, including 40.9 percent (9-of-22) from 3-point range, while knocking down 92.9 percent (13-of-14) from the free throw line.
- Baylor held a narrow 30-28 advantage on the boards, while K-State grabbed 13 offensive rebounds… However, the Wildcats managed just 8 second-chance points.
- Baylor held a 18-17 advantage in points off turnovers, as the teams combined for 38 turnovers.
- K-State held a 28-26 edge in points in the paint, which marked the 13th time this season that the Wildcats held the advantage in the paint.
- Baylor led 36-34 at the half as the Bears connected on 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field.
- K-State is now 0-19 this season when trailing at the half.
- Freshman Davion Bradford scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-9 field goals and 6-of-8 free throws to go with 3 rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes… It marked the fourth time he has led the team in scoring… He has now scored in double figures in 10 games, including 4 times in the last 5 contests.
- Freshman Nijel Pack scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-11 field goals, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, to go with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 33 minutes… He has now led the team in scoring in 11 games, including each of the last 2… He has now scored in double figures in 16 games… His six 3-pointers were his second-most this season and the most since had a career-high 8 vs. Texas A&M (1/30/21)… His 6 triples were also the most since Lance Harris knocked down 7 vs. Kansas (3/11/2005).
- Sophomore DaJuan Gordon scored 15 points on 5-of-11 field goals and a perfect 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line to go with 5 rebounds, and a career-best 4 steals in 34 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 19 career games, including 13 this season.
- Senior Mike McGuirl led both teams with 7 assists in just 30 minutes of action… It marked the 14th time this season that he led the team in assists.
- Freshman Selton Miguel continued his solid play with 7 points on 2-of-6 field goals and 3-of-4 free throws to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 27 minutes.
- Junior Rudi Williams provided a spark of the bench with 5 points on 2-of-5 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range, with a team-high 6 rebounds and 2 steals in 22 minutes.
With the loss, K-State ends the 2020-21 season with a 9-20 overall record, including a ninth-place finish with a 4-14 mark. The team was able to win 4 of their last 6 games after enduring a 13-game losing streak. In a turbulent year where teams weren’t able to play, the Wildcats were able to play all but one of their scheduled games.