It is now March 7th and for college basketball fans, it’s like Christmas Eve. Fans all across the country are so excited anticipating the NCAA tournament, but there is one game in particular that should not be over looked. Kansas State and Baylor will go head-to-head on Thursday at 9pm ET in the Big 12 quarterfinal. Don’t miss it, I’ll tell you why.
Kansas State has given the bears trouble all season. In their first meeting, the Wildcats had a two-point lead with ten minutes to go. However Baylor outscored them 32-21 from that point on. Another key factor was Johnathan Motley fouling out with 4:34 to go in the game, which definitely worked in the Wildcats’ favor. But not enough for the Wildcats to get the win.
In their second meeting Kansas State rallied to beat the Bears by two on their home home court in Waco, TX. They played some of the best first-half basketball that their coach had seen all year. The Wildcats shot 50% from the field and only had one turnover in the first 17:37 of the game. They held control for most of the game and outscored the Bears 26-22 in the paint.
The Bears tried to make a second half effort, and outscored Kansas State 32-19 in the second half. However when you put yourselves at a 15 point deficit at halftime, it’s hard to come back from that. Johnathan Motley also missed two shots towards the end to tie it.
What the bears have going for them
Baylor has quite a few names you want to know, if you don’t know them already. First Johnathan Motley who is averaging 17.5 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and it shooting 51.7% from the field. He has put on quite a show this season in big games. Most recently against West Virginia he put up 19 of his 23 points in the second half to get a nine point victory at home.
Next is Jo Laul-Acuil Jr. who is shooting 54.9% from the field which ranks fifth in the conference. He is a 7-0 junior averaging 9.2 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. But he is more than just statistics though. The kid knows how to play. In the Bears man defense, he parks it in the middle of the paint and deters anyone from getting too close to the hoop. On the offensive end, he has a nice touch around the rim to finish off any assists from Manu Lecomte.
Lecomte is former Miami Hurricane but he is doing big things for the Bears this year. As a junior he is averaging 4 assists per game (9th in the conference) as well as contributing 12.4 points per game. He also leads the team in overall assists with 115 and the senior Ishmail Wainright has a close 99. Both Lecomte and Wainright are great when it comes to distribution of the basketball.
As a team they have a big presence in the paint. Baylor leads the Big 12 as a team with 4.9 blocks per game and Jo Laul-Acuil Jr. single-handedly leads the Big 12 with 2.6 blocks per game. Their bread and butter is relying on defensive prowess to stop teams because they only average 75 points per game.
Kansas state has the right guys
The Wildcats are not short-staffed in any form. They have the right personnel to beat the Bears, and they have proven that in the regular season.
Wesley Iwundu is leading the way statistically averaging 12.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. But he can’t be mentioned without talking about D.J. Johnson and Barry Brown.
These are two exceptional players that you notice right away while watching the Wildcats play. Johnson is shooting 60.9% from the field, leading the Big 12 and a senior who doesn’t want his career to be over. Most recently he scored 19 against Texas Tech to keep their hopes of the NCAA tournament alive.
Barry Brown is a 6-3 sophomore averaging 2.4 steals per game (second in the conference). He’s a crafty guy who scored 15 against Texas to pull out a big win mid-February after losing six out of seven straight.
Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes also are big factors to the Wildcats’ success, so keep an eye on them too. Stokes especially who is averaging 4.3 assists per game.
Wednesday night’s matchup
What you can take from all the statistics, is that each team has respectable numbers in their given categories. When comparing the Bears and Wildcats side by side, they are identical in team statistics.
Each team has won one in the regular season, but Kansas State really needs this win for better consideration in the tournament. Baylor also could use the win to better their chances for a higher seed.
Now putting statistics aside, this will be a good game. It’s conference tournament time and everything is amped up. Seniors don’t want to be done, and players dream of going to the ‘ship. This will not be one you want to miss.
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