He didn’t have his best game, but Freddie Gillespie’s pair of free throws with one minute remaining felt like the dagger that finally iced the game. They pushed the lead back to 9 after Kansas State managed to creep back within 7. A Mark Vital dunk following the millionth K-State live ball turnover was the icing on top. The final minute of the game was slow, painful, but ultimately meaningless as Baylor (20-1, 9-0) beat Kansas State (9-13, 2-7) 73-67.
Jared Butler (20 pts, 3 stl, 4-8 3pt) found his groove tonight after struggling for the last several games. He was efficient from the floor (7-12 FG) and played excellent off-ball defense at the top. He generated several transition opportunities, which kept Baylor’s offense afloat when the half court stalled. If he can continue to play with consistency, Baylor will continue to find success.
Butler’s backcourt partners Davion Mitchel and MaCio Teague contributed 13 and 15 points, respectively. Mitchell dished 7 assists and had an excellent night finishing around the rim. He was a missile in transition heading for the rim. Mitchell also made a spectacular play stopping a Wildcat 2-on-1 opportunity late in the game that would have brought Kansas State within 7 points with momentum. For his part, Teague hit some timely driving layups and closing minute free throws.
Baylor’s starting guards created 7 of the team’s 11 steals and 48 of its 73 points.
Xavier Sneed had a big night for K-State, going 4-8 from deep en route to 23 points. He hit a number of contested jumpers and was aggressive attacking the rim when the lane opened up for him.
Often enough, that lane was opened by Cartier Diarra (11 pts, 3 ast, 3 stl, 4 TOs, 3-6 3pt). His first step blew by every defender Baylor could throw at him, no small feat. He made some key careless turnovers — 3 live ball turnovers lead directly to points for the Bears — but his driving ability scrambled Baylor’s defense and created easy shots for his teammates.
Gillespie (9 pts, 5 reb, 0 blk) had an off night most of the game, but his partner Mark Vital (5 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl) was the spark that Baylor needed. His defense, rebounding, and passing broke Baylor out of several slumps, which seemed to happen almost every time he left the game. After not taking a shot in Saturday’s game against TCU, Vital made both of his shots tonight. His first shot, in fact, was a completed and-1, a rare accomplishment for Vital made odder on a night in which the Bears were 16-29 from the line.
After beginning the game on a 22-7 run, Baylor suffered a 5 minute scoring drought that allowed Kansas State to crawl back within an 8 point game. Vital’s reentry into the game sparked the offense, most notably a sequence in which he got an offensive rebound, kicked it out to an open Bandoo, leading to another Vital rebound and kick out to an open Bandoo, this time for a three to end the drought. Baylor expanded the lead back to 12 until a 9-0 K-State run drew the Bears back in with 3 threes.
Diarra, who began the game with a petulant technical foul that drew the ire of commentator Fran Fraschilla, made one of those threes and assisted on the second. His driving ability sparked K-State’s offense, creating shooting space and driving lanes for teammates. As Fraschilla noted, he’s a very talented player who still suffers from occasional sloppiness.
Butler had one of his better halves in the last few games, finishing the first half with 12 points on 5-7 shooting (2-4 3pt). He got a few of those baskets in transition opportunities, but he broke down the defense several times with his dribble to get around the rim and finish with a lay-in or floater. As a team, Baylor shot 50% from the field and 4-13 from three in the first half, a decent offensive start. The Bears struggled from the line, however, going 3-8. Without the 8 turnovers from the Wildcats, Baylor’s offense would have been sorely lacking.
Baylor let Kansas State hang around too long in this game, but ultimately closed things out for the 19th straight victory of the season. Tonight’s win broke a 6-0 streak K-State had over the Bears.
The Bears will host Oklahoma State on Saturday to attempt 20 straight wins and an unreal 10-0 Big XII start.