By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Until this week, the No. 2/3 Baylor Bears were 5-0 in games decided by five points or less and had come back from second-half deficits to win 10 out of 11 times.
But, for the second time in four days, the Bears couldn't pull one out in the final seconds.
Trailing by as many as 19 and still down by 16 with under nine minutes to play, Baylor staged a furious rally and had three chances in the last 10 seconds to tie or take the lead only to come up short in a 56-54 loss to Kansas State Saturday afternoon before a Ferrell Center crowd of 7,729.
"Home losses are the worst," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team fell to 20-3 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12 with its first home-court loss of the year. "Give them credit, because they outplayed us for 30 minutes. Finally, the last 10 minutes, we started to get some rhythm and got back in the game and had opportunities down the stretch. . . . K-State punched us in the mouth, and we didn't respond until the last 10 minutes of the game."
Baylor's frustration was compounded by the fact that the Bears had a chance to move back into a tie for the conference lead after Kansas had its 54-game home-court winning streak snapped with a 92-89 overtime loss to Iowa State.
Asked if the Bears came out flat after Wednesday's 73-68 loss at Kansas, Drew said, "Definitely we weren't as energized as we've been to start games."
"Coaches will figure out what we could have done better and try to make sure we could have done something else," he said. "Obviously, we'll change up whatever wasn't working. Maybe the next game, we'll change our routine a little bit. The big thing is we've done so well at home, and it really hurts to lose a home game."
Kamau Stokes knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to cap a 15-0 run and give the Wildcats (16-7, 5-5) a stunning 37-18 lead with 4:05 left in the half.
"I thought the first 16 minutes were about as good a basketball as we've played since maybe early in the year," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "You're talking about playing one of the top two, three teams in the country on their court, and you're up 16, 18 points, you've got to be pretty impressed."
Turning it over 10 times and shooting just 33 percent in the first half (8-of-24), the Bears found themselves trailing 37-22 at the break.
"They played great inside defense and packed the paint pretty well," said junior forward Johnathan Motley, who had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the first half. "They make you beat them with jump shots. . . . Once they start making shots, it's a whole `nother game. We let them come out and start making shots. You can't do that against a Big 12 team. You do that, you'll get beat. And that's what happened."
Nine minutes into the second half, the Bears still hadn't made up any ground, falling behind 46-28. But, a 3-pointer by King McClure seemed to energize them for the stretch drive.
Manu Lecomte said the team was confident about a comeback, especially after coming from 22 down to beat Louisville last fall in the Bahamas.
"Of course, we came out with a lot of energy in the second half," he said. "That's what we did the whole second half was get stops. I wish we had started that way."
Baylor reeled off seven straight points on a Nuni Omot 3-pointer, a Motley dunk off a feed from McClure and a pair of Motley free throws to get back within single digits, 49-40, for the first time since the seven-minute mark in the first half.
D.J. Robinson scored inside to at least slow down Baylor's momentum, but Motley got in another dunk, Ishmail Wainright drained a baseline jumper and Motley finished off another 7-0 run with a three-point play that pulled the Bears within four, 51-47, with 3:18 left.
K-State hit only two buckets in the last 6 ½ minutes, but they were both big. Stokes knocked down a shot over Lecomte to put the Wildcats back up by six, then came off a screen by Robinson to bury a shot clock-beating baseline jumper for a 55-51 lead with 1:40 to play.
On that play, Weber called a timeout with one second left on the shot clock, setting up the shot by Stokes.
"I screwed that up. That was a big shot," Drew said. "We knew that was the play they were going to run. They ran it against TCU, had a pretty good look and he missed. We had two or three different options we could have done on that play. After they scored, obviously, we should have tried those two or three other ones. If there's one play I could go back on a redo, that was it."
Still, the Bears had their chances in the last minute. After turning it over on the possession before, Lecomte buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a one-point game, 55-54, with 43 seconds left.
After Johnson missed a pair of free throws, Lecomte drove into the paint but air-balled a jumper , saying, "It was good defense, but I thought I got (fouled)."
"He won't get fined, so he can say what he wants," Drew said.
The door was left open when Johnson missed one of two free throws, the Wildcats clinging to a two-point lead.
After Drew called his final timeout, Wainright hit Motley with a perfect lob off an inbounds pass, but the 6-10 forward missed a shot over Johnson. With 1.6 seconds showing on the clock, the Bears got one last try, but Johnson stuffed Motley's fade-away shot off another lob inbounds pass from Wainright as the buzzer sounded.
"When I went up (the first time), I was just expecting contact, and they kind of backed off, not trying to foul," said Motley, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds, but hit only 6-of-17 from the floor. "If I had gone up and dunked it, nothing could have stopped it."
Drew said the Bears got what they wanted at the end of the game.
"No question, Mot, front of the rim, we're all taking that," he said. "That one play didn't cost us the game. We trust him, we trust Manu. People are going to miss shots, and we have to control what we can control."
Baylor goes back on the road to face a resurgent Oklahoma State team (15-8, 4-6), coming off an 82-75 on the road at No. 7 West Virginia. Wednesday's matchup in Stillwater, Okla., will tip at 6 p.m., with an ESPNU broadcast.