MANHATTAN (AP) — The Kansas State Wildcats overcame two weaknesses that had plagued them most of this disappointing season Monday night and came away with a desperately needed 69-61 victory over Baylor.
The Wildcats had not been counter-punching when the other team made a move. But this time, they answered a flurry of Baylor 3-point buckets with a flurry of their own and quickly regained control.
And instead of stinking at the foul line the way they'd done so many times in losing four of their last five games and plunging into a tie for last place in a Big 12 race they were expected to win, they canned 25 of 31 from the line.
"That's what won us the game," said freshman guard Will Spradling, who had 17 points for Kansas State. Spradling was 9 for 9 from the line and Jacob Pullen, who also scored 17 points, was 7 for 9.
"We weren't scoring from the floor and it was nice to get to the free-throw line," Spradling said.
The Wildcats (14-7, 2-4) led 25-18 after a ragged first half filled with fouls and turnovers, but the Bears (13-6, 3-3) took a 30-29 lead on two 3-pointers by A.J. Walton and one each from LaceDarius Dunn and Stargell Love.
Then Rodney McGruder answered with a 3-pointer over the Baylor zone defense, igniting an 11-1 spree capped by Pullen's 3-pointer that shot the Wildcats into a 40-31 lead with 12:50 to go.
"That was something we didn't have the last couple of games," Spradling said. "The other team would punch us and we wouldn't punch back. That was big for us."
Quincy Acy led Baylor with 14 points. Dunn, guarded by Pullen most of the night, fouled out with 9 seconds left after scoring 13 points, seven below his league-leading average.
"He is one of the best defenders in the Big 12," said Dunn. "Whatever their plan was, he stepped up and was the leader of his team and doing his role. He was playing good defense, which he has been all year."
Kansas State coach Frank Martin said spacing and teamwork made the difference in holding Dunn below his average.
"He made two 3s in the first half and both were on our offensive mistakes," Martin said. "But Jake was extremely disciplined and his teammates helped him. They didn't allow LaceDarius to ever catch the ball where he can catch it looking at the rim in rhythm. He was always, I think, under duress. When you can defend someone that's going to be the best scorer in the history of the Big 12 the way we did today, that means your kids did some things right."
Delete - Merge Perry Jones, who had been shooting better than 70 percent since conference play began, had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Bears.
Curtis Kelly's dunk gave Kansas State a 60-50 lead, but the Bears cut it to 60-55 on a three-point play by Perry Jones. It was 63-58 with 28.8 seconds left when Kansas State reserve Juevol Myles made two free throws — his only points of the game.
Jamar Samuels scored for Kansas State, then McGruder connected again from beyond the arc. After J'Mison Morgan's turnover, Pullen's 3-pointer put the Wildcats on top by nine.
Earlier, Jones soared to the bucket for one of the more impressive dunks Bramlage Coliseum has seen this year, but Spradling stopped the budding Baylor momentum with another 3-pointer for Kansas State.
Walton scored six points before fouling out with 9:50 remaining. His fifth foul came on Spradling's 3-point attempt, and Spradling made all three foul shots for a 46-35 Kansas State lead.
The Wildcats also held a 35-26 rebounding edge.
"I was proud of our defensive effort and I felt like we needed to do a better job on the boards," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "They are the best at rebounding and we knew we had our hands full with it. At the end of the day, they were better than us tonight. I know that was a big game for them and a big game for us."
Kelly, who seems to be rounding into shape after sitting out a six-game suspension, had 13 points and seven rebounds, while McGruder had seven rebounds to go with 12 points.
Love had 11 points for the Bears.
In the ragged first half, Dunn missed his first three shots and did not score until he hit a 3-pointer from the wing at the 11:42 mark. He had 33 points in his previous appearance at Kansas State in 2009.
Big 12 Conference
Kansas State 69, Baylor 61
P. Jones 3-5 5-8 11, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0, A. Jones 2-4 2-3 6, Walton 2-7 0-0 6, Dunn 4-17 2-2 13, Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Acy 4-7 6-7 14, Dennis 0-0 0-0 0, Love 4-6 2-4 11. Totals 19-47 17-24 61.
KANSAS ST. (14-7)
Kelly 5-13 3-6 13, Samuels 2-7 0-0 4, Pullen 4-13 7-9 17, Southwell 1-4 0-1 2, McGruder 4-6 2-2 12, Irving 0-0 0-0 0, Myles 0-0 2-2 2, Henriquez-Roberts 0-3 2-2 2, Judge 0-0 0-0 0, Spradling 3-6 9-9 17. Totals 19-52 25-31 69.
Halftime—Kansas St. 25-18. Three-point goals—Baylor 6-15 (Dunn 3-8, Walton 2-3, Love 1-2, A. Jones 0-2); Kansas St. 6-18 (McGruder 2-4, Spradling 2-5, Pullen 2-7, Samuels 0-1, Southwell 0-1). Fouled Out_Dunn, Henriquez-Roberts, Kelly, Walton. Rebounds—Baylor 26 (P. Jones 8), Kansas St. 35 (Kelly, McGruder 7). Assists—Baylor 10 (Dunn, Walton 3), Kansas St. 12 (Southwell 4). Total Fouls—Baylor 26, Kansas St. 23. A—12,528.