MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Dean Wade-Barry Brown sequel looked a lot like last month’s game film.
After burning Baylor at the Ferrell Center, Kansas State’s dynamic duo was hot again as Wade scored 25 points and Brown 18 to lift the Wildcats to a 77-67 win in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.
With their third loss in the last four games, the Bears (18-13, 8-10) will be the sixth seed against third-seeded West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Thursday in Kansas City. Fourth-seeded Kansas State (21-10, 10-8) will face fifth-seeded TCU on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. (See a complete Big 12 Tournament schedule on page D7.)
The Bears are seeking their eighth NCAA tournament appearance under Scott Drew, but they’ve never made it before with a losing conference record. While most projections still have the Bears making the NCAA tournament, they can certainly solidify their case with a strong showing at the Big 12 tournament.
In the Wildcats’ first game against Baylor on Jan. 22, Wade scored 24 points and Brown 34 to spark a 90-83 win. The Bears couldn’t stop them again in the rematch as Wade hit nine of 14 field goals and grabbed nine rebounds while Brown hit six of nine shots and collected nine assists as the Wildcats extended their winning streak over Baylor to four games.
“They operated and executed like they’ve got two pros out there,” said Drew in his postgame radio interview. “They weren’t just scoring, they were shooting unbelievable percentages. When they’re that effective, it makes it tough.”
Nuni Omot provided much of Baylor’s offense as he tied his career high with 30 points by hitting six of nine 3-pointers and eight of nine free throws. But Terry Maston was the only other Baylor player to score in double figures as he finished with 11.
Center Jo Lual-Acuil played just 20 minutes and scored six points after experiencing dizziness during a Baylor time out early in the game. He didn’t score in the second half.
“Jo faints in the time out and obviously we’re worried about him,” Drew said. “He’s been our leader all year long. Jo bounced back but he wasn’t himself. We missed him.”
Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte hit just two of 10 shots, including one of seven from 3-point range. The Bears made 14 turnovers that led to 20 Kansas State points.
“Our turnovers really hurt us,” Drew said. “Defensively, we didn’t have as much ball pressure as we’ve had, and part of that was them moving the ball and their scheme and talented players. You have to play really well to beat a team like Kansas State on its home court, and we didn’t play well enough.”
The Bears took their last lead at 23-22 when Omot hit three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot with 6:04 left in the first half. The Wildcats went on 13-2 run to close the first half, and the Bears never recovered.
Kamau Stokes started Kansas State’s run with a drive inside followed by Brown’s basket in the paint and a pair of free throws by Wade. After Lecomte lost the ball, Wade got loose for a breakaway slam to give Kansas State a 30-23 lead.
Lual-Acuil stopped Kansas State’s momentum briefly by scoring inside, but the Wildcats closed the half with Stokes’ 3-pointer and Wade’s rebound and jumper at the buzzer to go into halftime with a 35-25 lead.
The Wildcats kept building their lead throughout the second half. With Wade’s drive for a basket and Brown’s pair of free throws, Kansas State extended its lead to 60-44 with 9:15 remaining.
But Omot kept the Bears in the game by scoring eight straight points with a slam and a pair of 3-pointers to trim Kansas State’s lead to 60-52 with 8:01 remaining.
With another Omot 3-pointer, the Bears cut Kansas State’s lead to 62-57 with 6:25 to play. But the Wildcats answered with six straight points as Wade hit an outside shot and Makol Mawien hit four straight free throws to push the lead to 69-58 with 4:36 remaining.
“They’re a really good team and are coached well,” Omot said. “They do a great job pressuring you and compacting the floor so that you won’t have too many driving lanes. We had too many turnovers which led to points for them in transition.”