WACO, Texas — Rodney McGruder was surprised that Kansas State was even getting the chance at another shot in regulation.
It was quick, and it worked.
McGruder made a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 64-61 victory Saturday night that kept the 13th-ranked Wildcats in a tie for the Big 12 lead.
They unexpectedly got the ball back with a second remaining following Baylor’s failed desperation inbound pass.
“I was thinking of something different. But that goes for being fortunate,” McGruder said of a game that seemed headed for overtime. “It worked out in our favor. That’s all I can say.”
Kansas State (24-5, 13-3 Big 12) had already missed one potential tiebreaking shot when Shane Southwell missed badly on a shot that went out of bounds with one second left.
Instead of settling for overtime, the Bears (17-12, 8-8) brought seldom-used Jacob Neubert off the bench to try a length-of-the-court inbound pass.
But Neubert’s baseball-style pass went out of bounds without being touched. So the Wildcats got the ball under their own basket without any time running off the clock.
The Wildcats called timeout and set up the play. Angel Rodriguez inbounded the ball to McGruder, who worked around defenders to get open on the right wing a couple of feet beyond the 3-point line. He swished the shot.
“We didn’t do a very good job on the possession before that. We really didn’t get a good look,” Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber said. “(Southwell) was probably our last option on that one and I probably should have called timeout. ... We didn’t have a quick hitter on shot clocks and we just call in ‘quick.’ The kids said, ‘Let’s run it.’ We’ve run it once this year. Rodney read it perfectly. Great pass by Angel.”
McGruder finished with 18 points for the Wildcats, who won their fifth straight game and ninth in 10 to maintain a share of the Big 12 lead with sixth-ranked Kansas with two regular season games left. The Jayhawks got their 13th league victory earlier Saturday, 91-65 over West Virginia.
Pierre Jackson had 18 points and seven assists for Baylor, which has lost seven of its past 10 games.
“I don’t remember losing on a buzzer-beater — ever. So I don’t know how to react to it,” Jackson said.
Cory Jefferson had 14 points while Isaiah Austin, the Bears’ 7-foot-1 freshman standout, had 11 points and 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double this season.
“It was a great game and a terrible ending for the Baylor Bears,” coach Scott Drew said. “With one second, it’s hard not to try to win the game. Jacob has done a great job of making that pass. Isaiah has come down with it, Cory has come down with it, Quincy Acy has come down with it. So it would be tough not to try it from underneath out of bounds. ... The plan was for (Isaiah) to catch it and lay it in, and we storm the court.”
The celebration instead belonged to the Wildcats, who mobbed McGruder at midcourt.
The Bears have a quick turnaround, with a game Monday night at Texas. They close the regular season at home next Saturday against Kansas.
Baylor had its first lead in the second half when Jefferson got a bounce pass from Brady Heslip and made a layup while being fouled by Southwell with 3:58 left. After the media timeout that immediately followed, Jefferson made the free throw to put the Bears up 56-54.
Southwell then had a shot blocked by Austin, but the ball went out of bounds, and Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats back ahead. Jackson missed a layup that was grabbed by Jordan Henriquez, who had a dunk at the other end with 2:48 left for a 59-56 lead.
Rodriguez had a bad pass that Jackson came up with, before driving, being fouled and making the second free throw. Jackson had another chance after a miss by Rodriguez, driving all the way and being fouled McGruder. Those two free throws tied the game at 59 with 1:23 left.
McGruder made a jumper with 1:03 left, but Jackson was fouled again by McGruder on a drive and again made both free throws with 35 seconds left.
Kansas State brought the ball up the court and made a few passes before Weber called timeout with 7.7 seconds left. But Southwell missed.
The Wildcats have regular-season games left at home against TCU and at Oklahoma State. They are 9-0 against teams from Texas, including a 20-point win at home over Baylor two weeks earlier.
Down 34-33 at the half, Kansas State opened the second half with a quick 7-0 spurt. Southwell had a jumper and McGruder made a floater before a three-point play when he made a dunk while being fouled and added the free throw. The Wildcats then led until Jefferson’s three-point play.
Baylor wore its special neon yellow uniforms unveiled earlier this week by Adidas, including camouflage-patterned shorts in the same bright color. The Bears were one of six teams to get special uniforms for anticipated tournament appearances.
On top of that Saturday, Baylor gave out 10,000 T-shirts to the fans in the highlighter color, brightening up the Ferrell Center.
Until the gloomy finish.
Big 12 Conference
At Waco, Texas
No. 13 Kansas State 64, Baylor 61
KANSAS ST. (24-5)
Henriquez 3-5 2-4 8, Southwell 3-8 2-2 8, Rodriguez 4-10 2-3 13, McGruder 7-15 3-5 18, Spradling 0-1 0-0 0, Irving 4-8 0-0 11, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Lawrence 0-1 0-0 0, Gipson 2-7 0-0 4, Johnson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 24-56 9-14 64.
Jefferson 5-9 4-5 14, Austin 5-12 1-1 11, Heslip 3-7 1-2 10, Walton 2-5 2-2 6, Jackson 4-12 7-9 18, Rose 0-0 0-0 0, Gathers 0-2 0-2 0, Franklin 0-2 0-0 0, Bello 0-0 0-0 0, Neubert 0-0 0-0 0, Prince 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-51 15-21 61.
Halftime—Baylor 34, Kansas State 33. Three-point goals—Kansas State 7-17 (Irving 3-5, Rodriguez 3-5, McGruder 1-5, Spradling 0-1, Southwell 0-1); Baylor 6-14 (Jackson 3-6, Heslip 3-7, Franklin 0-1). Rebounds—Kansas St. 32 (Henriquez 9); Baylor 36 (Austin 12). Assists—Kansas St. 17 (Rodriguez 8); Baylor 16 (Jackson 7). Total fouls—Kansas St. 19, Baylor 13. Fouled out—Henriquez. A—9,656.