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Bramlage Full of Energy in Win over Baylor


By: D. Scott Fritchen, Kansas State University Athletics


MANHATTAN, Kan. ( – As has become his custom after each home win, Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang left the postgame handshake line and bolted toward an awaiting and excited student section at Bramlage Coliseum. Sometimes, Tang jumps in with the school pep band, other times he dances with the students. After the Wildcats’ emotional 75-65 win over No. 9 Baylor, Tang chose to jump upon a courtside table before landing on the concrete floor and joining the students.

“I’ve been trying to tell you all,” Tang told reporters afterward, “I’m athletic.”

And No. 14 K-State continues to make moves.

Keyontae Johnson poured in 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and Markquis Nowell added 14 points and 10 assists without a turnover, as the Wildcats tied a school record by capturing their seventh victory over an AP Top 25 team this season.

The victory moved K-State, 21-7 overall and 9-6 in the Big 12 Conference, into a tie for third place with Baylor, 20-8 and 9-6, in the league standings with three games remaining in the regular season.

“We’re blessed,” Tang said. “It’s not me. I have a terrific staff and we have a great team and God has just been really, really good to us. When you say (seven top-25 wins), it’s really crazy. I don’t take it lightly that we’ve had this kind of success early and I know it’s a testament to the faithfulness of God and His favor on our program.”

The NCAA Tournament men’s basketball selection committee’s bracket preview on Saturday revealed K-State as a No. 3 seed in the tournament. Baylor was listed as a No. 2 seed.

“Knowing the regular season is coming to an end, we’re giving it all we’ve got out there and are just having fun,” Johnson said. “No telling what can happen next. We’re trying to finish out the conference strong and have a good seed going into the Big 12 Tournament.”

K-State snapped a seven-game skid to Baylor with a 97-95 overtime victory in Waco earlier this season. Now K-State has swept the season series against Baylor for the first time since 2019.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew, who hired Tang to be a part of his staff in 2003 before Tang left for his first Division I head coaching job at K-State last March, isn’t shy in putting the feats of K-State and Tang into perspective.

“First of all, Coach Tang should be national coach of the year, period,” Drew said. “He had two players and filled the whole roster and they were picked at the bottom (of the Big 12). He’ll get my vote and it’s not because he’s my brother. It’s because he’s earned it.”

It’s been a dog fight. Coupled with K-State’s 61-55 win over No. 19 Iowa State on Saturday in Manhattan, Tuesday marked the Wildcats’ first back-to-back league wins since they beat No. 2 Kansas and Texas Tech in January.

Meanwhile, Baylor suffered an 87-71 loss at Kansas on Saturday prior to its loss to the Wildcats. The Bears have now lost back-to-back games for the first time since they lost three straight to start the league season.

Baylor entered the game a nation-best 26-10 against AP Top 25 teams over the last four years with 16 of those victories coming away from home. Baylor also entered 25-8 in Big 12 road games, the best mark over the past four years.

K-State had a trend of its own: Tuesday’s game marked the seventh consecutive sellout for Tang and the Wildcats.

“This is a dream come true and it’s not who we played or when, but the environment tonight and energy, it’s every coach’s dream to compete in that type of environment and watch your guys be energized by the crowd,” Tang said.
“Our guys had energy and executed and didn’t turn the ball over. When they made a run, we responded.”

K-State used a 21-10 scoring run to turn a 34-31 halftime deficit into a 55-44 lead with 8 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the game. As the Wildcats were in the midst of lighting up the scoreboard, the lights dimmed at Bramlage during a timeout, fans shined their cellphone lights, and danced to the arena’s popular song, “Sandstorm.”

The Wildcats continued to dim the Bears’ chances of a comeback.

A pair of Nowell free throws gave K-State a 65-51 lead – its largest lead of the game – with 4:23 left to go. The Bears never drew closer than eight points the rest of the way.

K-State next travels to face Oklahoma State on Saturday. Baylor hosts No. 8 Texas the same day.

“The great thing about the Big 12 is Quad 1 win opportunities every night,” Drew said. “There are top-25 games every night. In 20 years, it’s the best it’s ever been top to bottom.”

For the second time in as many games, K-State coaches and players were able to celebrate a big win.

“It’s really fun, especially when you get a win in front of your home crowd, back-to-back wins, it’s just fun,” Nowell said. “It gives you confidence going into a hostile road environment. We needed this. We earned this. We put in the work. When things were going bad, we adjusted, looked over our mistakes.

“It’s good to be back on the winning side.”

Moments after Tang emerged from his postgame celebration with the student section, he was asked to describe the momentum that the Wildcats now possess moving forward.

“Momentum is a crazy thing,” he said. “It’s easier to build at home. I’ll let you know after the Oklahoma State game what kind of momentum we have.”

He paused.

“I like how we’re playing,” he continued. “I like the energy that we’re playing with and as a staff we’re doing a better job of being mindful of our guys and their bodies and rest and those things.”

The Wildcats could rest easy Tuesday night.