MANHATTAN — Playing back-to-back home games in front of sold out crowds has done wonders for the collective psyche of the Kansas State Wildcats.
For the second time in four days, the Wildcats rallied from a halftime deficit to shut out a ranked opponent Tuesday, turning in a masterful defensive performance en route to a 75-65 win over No. 10 Baylor at the Bramlage Coliseum.
Not only did the Wildcats right the ship during the short homestand — they beat Iowa State on Saturday, 61-55 — but they also surged back into the top end of the loaded Big 12. They are now 21-7 overall and 9-6 in the league, elevating themselves to third place with Baylor (20-8, 9-6), two games behind co-leaders Kansas and Texas.
The Wildcats turned to their biggest stars to come back from a 34-31 deficit as Keyontae Johnson scored 25 points and Markquis Nowell shrugged off a bad night of shooting to finish with 14 points and 10 assists without a turnover. Cam Carter had 10 points and eight rebounds, with Nae’Qwan Tomlin contributing eight points and eight rebounds.
Baylor had 23 points from Keyonte George, including six 3-pointers, and 16 points and four threes from LJ Cryer.
K-State will be back in action Saturday at 1 p.m. against Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Here are three takeaways from another solid release from K-State.
Moreover:The big second half lifts Kansas State basketball past Baylor, 75-65
Defense, clean play on offense push Wildcats
Despite a shaky first half on offense, K-State held on with Baylor narrowing the error and rallying after a disheartening 21-3 run by the Bears late in the period.
The Wildcats turned the ball over just five times in the period and were even better after halftime as they finished with a season-high seven total.
Baylor, who missed his first five 3-point attempts, knocked down six of seven on his dash to go from 10 points to a 34-26 lead on an LJ Cryer three with 1:38 left in the half.
Moreover:Kansas State basketball is hoping to double-up with a second straight win against Baylor
But Tomlin, who was limited to 10 minutes in the half after picking up his second foul, scored the last five points of the half to keep him close. Johnson then scored eight of the Wildcats’ first 10 points of the second period.
The Wildcats limited Baylor to 5-of-15 3-pointers in the second half and turned the Bears’ misses into transition baskets to the other end. Five different players scored during a decisive 12-1 run midway through the quarter, breaking a 43-43 tie to go up 55-44 on a steal and dunk by Carter at 8:25.
K-State outscored Baylor, 42-16, in the paint, 19-5 on turnovers and 15-9 on fast breaks.
Keyontae Johnson rediscovers the midrange game
One element that Keyontae Johnson has been lacking as of late was the midrange jumper that made him nearly unstoppable early in the season.
At 6-foot-6, he found scoring under the basket difficult, forcing him to settle for 3 points.
But against Baylor, he forced the Bears to honor short jumpers in the lane and on the baseline, which in turn opened up drive lanes. He made 11 of 17 shots for the game, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range.
It was only Johnson’s second 20-point game in his last 10.
Moreover:Fresh legs and defense were just the ticket for Kansas State versus Iowa State basketball
An extraordinary evening for Markquis Nowell
Markquis Nowell couldn’t buy a field goal for most of the game, but he more than made up for it with his decision making and shooting ability from the free throw line.
Not only were his 10 assists the most since he had 14 in an overtime win at Baylor on Jan. 7, but it marked only the second time in his two seasons at K-State that he didn’t turn the ball over. , and the first time this year.
In fact, Nowell had at least four turnovers in each of the previous eight games.
While he made just 2 of 11 shots and missed all six of his 3-point tries, he had no such worries at the foul line, making all 10 attempts, eight in the second half.
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @arnegreen.