MANHATTAN (AP) — Baylor coach Scott Drew isn’t oblivious to criticism — no matter how spotless the record or high the ranking.
After some had questioned his team’s toughness, Drew was thrilled with the way the fourth-ranked Bears responded against no. 18 Kansas State on Tuesday night.
Perry Jones scored 17 points and Baylor held the Wildcats to one basket over the final 5 minutes for a 75-73 win.
“That’s the biggest thing, that sometimes people question our team’s toughness,” Drew said. “Tonight, I think we showed, mentally, how tough we’ve been.”
Quincy Acy and Brady Heslip added 13 points apiece for the Bears (16-0, 3-0 Big 12). Jones and Acy combined to go 14 of 18 from the floor. Pierre Jackson chipped in with 10 points for Baylor, which surged ahead with a 20-4 run over a 5 1/2-minute stretch midway through the second half.
Rodney McGruder scored 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead Kansas State (12-3, 1-2). Jordan Henriquez added 10 points for the Wildcats.
“Their frontline kicked our tails,” Wildcats coach Frank Martin said. “When your frontline has more turnovers than defensive rebounds, it’s hard to believe.”
Kansas State got off to a good start in trying to hand an undefeated team its first loss for the second time in four days.
The Wildcats, who beat No. 9 Missouri 75-59 on Saturday, went on an early 13-2 run to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 15-7 lead. Through the game’s first 9 minutes, Baylor had eight turnovers and the Wildcats none.
But Jones hit two baskets at the rim to kick off a 9-0 Bears run that cut the deficit to 21-20. Quincy Miller and Jackson each had a dunk as part of another 9-0 run to put Baylor up 29-25 with 2:02 remaining in the half.
Jones said he took that stretch as a good sign.
“It showed we’re able to stay together as a team when times are tough,” he said. “Guys don’t get mad at each other and guys still play basketball the way we play, so just staying poised.”
K-State finished the half by scoring eight of the final 10 points, including a runner by McGruder as the clock expired for a 33-31 halftime lead.
The Wildcats came out hot at the start of the second half and needed just over 3 minutes to push their lead to 44-37.
Baylor answered with a 20-4 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes. At one point, the Bears scored eight points in 84 seconds, forcing two K-State timeouts. A.J. Walton keyed the run with six straight points, and Jackson sank a 3-pointer for a 58-50 Baylor lead with 10:36 remaining.
“The guys wearing our uniforms threw it to the guys wearing their uniforms so they could run down for dunks,” said Martin.
But McGruder kept K-State in it with nine points during an 11-4 run, including a driving layup that pulled the Wildcats to 62-60 with 7:36 remaining.
“We knew coming in how good he was,” Acy said, “but he was spectacular tonight.”
Henriquez hit two free throws to give K-State a 71-69 lead with 4:13 to play, but Acy scored five straight points to put Baylor up 74-71 with 2:22 remaining.
“I knew I had to come in and give us a spark then,” Acy said.
McGruder converted a baseline drive seconds later, cutting Baylor’s lead to 74-73.
Heslip missed from 3-point range with 25 seconds remaining, but Jones got the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made one free throw with 20.9 seconds to go.
K-State appeared ready to tie it when Angel Rodriguez was open in the lane in the final 5 seconds, but he had the ball stripped with 3 seconds on the clock. The Wildcats’ ensuing inbound pass was tipped away as time expired.
“To not close this game out because of a comedy of errors,” Martin said, “it’s embarrassing.”
Baylor had just 10 turnovers in the final 31 minutes and shot 53.7 percent for the game.
“Our depth is our biggest strength,” Drew said. “Our leadership and depth allow you to overcome a night when you do have foul trouble.”