Kansas State started the game 2-8 before Mayer saved the ball straight to Pack for an easy three and a 10-6 Kansas State lead. That three sparked a 7-0 run by the Wildcats as Baylor continued to struggled in the half court.
With 8:10 left in the first half and Kansas State up 7, Baylor managed to grab two offensive rebound. That set up Flagler to drill a huge three off a screen at the top of the key to make the score 20-16. It felt like a moment where K-State could take control of the rest of the half, but Flagler and Brown made just enough plays to keep Baylor around.
Mark Smith had success early getting into the paint driving against Baylor’s smaller guards. His 13 first half points carried Kansas State as he and Baylor traded baskets near the close of the first half. Baylor was 5 of its last 6 going into the final minute, and K-State was 6-8 in the same stretch. That was a welcome change after the languid offense earlier in the game.
Baylor looked much more cohesive at the start of the second half. Thamba, Brown, and Mayer were in much better position as help defenders, and Flagler picked up a key charge that was Nowell’s 4th foul. Offensively, Akinjo and Flagler were more assertive finding their way into the paint. Bonner, too, had a great drive to the rim to answer a three by Pack and push the lead back to 5. Had Flagler hit a wide open three, the Bears could have opened a 10-point lead after holding K-State to just 4 points in 5 minutes.
Coming out of a timeout, though, the Bears would put in two more quick layups. The 8-0 run opened up a 49-48 lead. After Kansas State turned it over a 10th time, Akinjo hit a hard dribble jumper, then Sochan swallowed McGuirl at the rim. Akinjo later knocked down two free throws to complete a 12-0 run that put Baylor up 53-41. That 4-minute stretch was the first dominant run by Baylor we've seen in some time, mostly due to a defensive plan that smothered Pack on the outside and built a wall in front of Smith. Baylor scored 8 points off turnovers in that run after scoring just 2 such points in the whole first half.
Kansas State didn’t put their heads down, though, and Pack put the team on his back to cut the lead back down to 6 with 9 minutes remaining. Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, a perfect 4-4 to that point, knocked down a layup inside as he was fouled to push the lead back out to 8 and settled some nerves that the Wildcats and Pack would mount a comeback. Bonner’s two free throws with 8:16 remaining brought back a 10-point lead, where the margin would pretty much remain for the rest of the game.
Tchamwa-Tchatchoua scored a career high tonight with 21 points on 9-10 shooting, capped by his newly minted three-point shot. He did a fantastic job all night finishing on the roll and being ready to receive the ball when someone else drew in the defense. His defense had a massive impact, as well, as he patrolled the paint, collecting 1 block and 6 rebounds.
Bonner, too, had a nice night with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. He continues to get better and better as the season goes on. He looks more in control, and he has improved at picking his spot without forcing things offensively.
Scoring was very balanced for the Bears tonight. Six players scored 8+ points, and Mayer was the only scoreless Baylor player tonight. That balance paid off in the second half, especially. Kansas State couldn’t cover everyone, and Baylor did an excellent job sharing the ball. The Bears had 9 assists on 15 makes in the second half.
Where Baylor was balanced, Kansas State was again reliant almost entirely on the scoring prowess of Pack. Pack had another 30-point game, his second of the season. When Pack wasn’t dropping in shots, though, K-State didn’t have much going. Smith looked for a while to be that second guy, but he couldn’t find the rime in the second half. Forty-eight of K-State’s 60 points were scored by Pack and Smith.
This win was a nice bounce-back after the dispiriting showing in Lawrence on Saturday. While Akinjo still struggled to find efficient shots, Baylor was able to use defense to create offense - particularly when Brown had the ball in transition - and the half-court offense generated 20 layup attempts despite poor outside shooting (23.5%) and the continued absence of LJ Cryer, who has now missed 4 games.
Baylor will host the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. Defending home court will be an imperative to keep pace with Kansas, who just lost to Texas in Austin and now has just a 1⁄2 game lead over Baylor. Texas has the long, active defensive style that has given Baylor fits this season. Expect a low-scoring, grind it out type game this weekend.