It took a tight, closely contested battle and a last second three point shot from star Rodney McGruder for the Kansas State Wildcat to beat the Baylor Bears 64-61 Saturday night in Waco. The Wildcats remain in a deadlock with the Kansas Jayhawks for the lead in the Big 12 Conference. If the Wildcats can win their last two games of the regular season against TCU at home Tuesday night,and on the road against the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday afternoon, they will earn a least a share of the first Big 12 title in school history.
McGruder’s game winning shot climaxed an exciting, back and forth affair. Baylor (8-8, 17-12) needed the home win to keep their hopes alive for a NCAA bid in two weeks, but the Wildcats (13-3, 24-5) were playing for a conference championship. Neither team was willing to cave and neither let the other out of sight. Six points marked the biggest lead either team enjoyed as they added another terrific game to the long list of fantastic contests that have been played in the Big 12 this season.
The buzzer beating three gave McGruder a team high 18 points to go along with his 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Angel Rodriguez contributed 13 points and 8 assists, while Martavious Irving added 11. Foe the Bears, Pierre Jackson led the way with 18 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 5 turnovers. Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, and Brady Heslip also scored in double figures.
McGruder’s final basket was set up by a wild final 7.7 seconds. During a timeout, Wildcat coach Bruce Weber called a play for McGruder to get the ball. As the seconds ran off the clock, McGruder was unable to break free and Shane Southwell was forced to put up a shot which missed and went out of bounds. After the Bears made an ill conceived full court pass that sailed out of bounds untouched, the buzzer sounded to end the game. Since no one touched the ball before it went out of bounds along the opposite end of the court, KSU was awarded the ball under their basket with one second left. Daniel Gipson set a strong pick, freeing McGruder for an open look. McGruder got the shot up quickly and it looked perfect the instant it left his hand. It was.
Kansas State is doing all the little things necessary to win big ball games. They won the battle on the boards 36-32, and they tallied 17 assists on their 24 baskets. Defensively, they produced 9 steals and held the Bears to just 39% from the field. McGruder has produced like an All-Conference First Team player all season, and Angel Rodriguez should make the Big 12 All-Conference Second team, if not the First team.
The Wildcats continue to show their season is not a fluke and they deserve Top 10 recognition for their tough, consistent play. They have shown good improvements as a team, as well as individually, throughout the season and Coach Weber and his staff deserve credit for placing the Wildcats in the position to win the Big 12 title. It will be an exciting week in Manhattan this week and will culminate in a match up with Oklahoma State next weekend with the championship on the line. That contest promises to be as exciting this one was.