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Free Throws the Key to K-State's Victory

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Boy, was that needed: Kansas State  69, Baylor 61.

The Wildcats, now 2-4, 14-7 clawed their way out of a 1-4 Big 12 funk Monday with a victory over the 3-3, 13-6 Bears.

Strange as it might sound, but K-State made only three ... that's three all by Curtis Kelly ... field goals in the last 12:19 of the game, but also swished 20-of-23 from the charity stripe to solidify the victory.

"What saved us today was making free throws," said K-State coach Frank Martin of his 59 percent free throw shooting team on the year. "Some of you guys didn't believe that could ever happen."

Baylor went on a 3-point tear to open the second half to erase a 25-18 halftime deficit and take a 30-29 lead. A Rodney McGruder 3-ball at the 15:26 mark put K-State up for good as the bucket ignited an 11-1 Wildcat run, which included another trey by McGruder and another by Jacob Pullen.

"At times we were lethargic and our cuts were slow, but then there was a segment in the second half that we finally got some good hard cuts, got the ball to the right spots, and we had guys jump up and make shots," said Martin. "It wasn't pretty, but we needed to figure out a way to win, and we did."

Martin added, "When they hit us with their push, we didn't fold."

The Bears closed to within five, 60-55, late in the game, but clutch 6-of-6 free throw shooting down the stretch by Will Spradling kept the Wildcats in front.

Go Figure
K-State rocketed out of the gate to a 16-4 lead, but then both sides went into a chilly streak.

During a run of 19 consecutive possessions for each side, K-State scored just three times (seven points) and Baylor scored just four times (eight points) into the final seconds of the first half.

For the first half, Baylor shot a miserable 25 percent, plus only 57 percent from the foul line. K-State was only slightly better at 32 percent from the field and 62 percent from the line.

It was the fewest points allowed in the first half of a game this year. Texas Southern was also held to 18 points. Baylor entered the game averaging 73 points per game.

The second half opened with both sides just as hot as they were cold in the first half.

K-State scored on seven of its first nine possessions, which included three treys and 7-of-9 shooting. Baylor scored on six of its first nine possessions, which included four 3-balls and 5-of-7 shooting.

Star of the Game
Will Spradling played 29 quality minutes providing a career-high 17 points, plus had an assist and a steal. Spradling hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final 70 seconds of the game.

"He was great. Will's a fiery, competitive young man," said Martin. "He is zoned into game plans probably better than anyone on the team other than Jacob. You're talking about a kid barely 18 years of age, but with that game on the line, what tells you about a player is whether he runs away from the ball. Will got open, got fouled, and made free throws."

It was because of Spradling, that Baylor coach Scott Drew said, "He was one of the reasons we got out of the zone. He's a good shooter and a good free throw shooter. What, 9-of-9 is pretty good."

Spradling's previous high was 15 points scored against UMKC.

In his last four games, Spradling, a 5.6 point per game scorer, has scored seven, six, seven and 17 points.

Pullen Update
Jacob Pullen tied for the lead in scoring with 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

Pullen has now scored 1,829 points, leaving him just five behind Askia Jones, who ranks fourth in all-time Wildcat scoring. Rolando Blackman is 15 points ahead of Pullen in the No. 3 spot.

Martin called Pullen's game "as disciplined as he's played all year."

Pullen also had a steal, his 190th for a career, tying the K-State record held by Steve Henson.

In addition, Pullen guarded the Big 12's leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn and held him to 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting.

Stats of the Game
The Wildcats entered the game just 59 percent free throw shooters, but netted 25-of-31 (.860) and outscored the Bears 25-17 from the foul line. In the second half, K-State made 87 percent (20-of-23).

The Wildcats also dominated the glass, 35-26, but ironically were out-scored on second-chance points, 15-11.

Game Notes
• The Wildcats played in their new silver uniforms from Nike.
• K-State's Rodney McGruder didn't play in the final minutes of the game after smacking his head on the floor. "In the huddle, he said things were spinning," said Martin. "It was a trainer's decision."
• A total of 17 scouts were in attendance to primarily watch Baylor's 6-11 freshman Perry Jones III. Some are predicting him to be a Top 5-10 draft choice.
• The Wildcats are now 13-10 in games against Baylor, which includes 8-9 in Big 12 play.

Up Next
K-State travels to Kansas for a 6 p.m., tipoff on Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPN. Kansas, 18-1, travels to Colorado tonight.