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K-State keeps pace in tight Big 12 race with win over Baylor

Feb 16, 2013, 9:15 PM EDT

A.J. Walton, Rodney McGruder AP

For Big 12 fans, this is one of those days that plays out perfectly.

Three teams are wrangling for the league lead, and all three play on the same day, evenly spaced so that nobody has to miss a minute of each crucial televised game.

Oklahoma State kicked things off this morning, taking a hard-fought overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series and moving to 9-3 in league play. They were alone atop the Big 12 standings for a few hours, then Kansas State tore up an already ragged Baylor team 81-61 in the Octagon of Doom to make it a two-way tie.

Guard play ruled the day for the Wildcats, with Angel Rodriguez breaking out for 22 points and 10 assists. Rodriguez has played second or third fiddle to Rodney McGruder much of the season, but tonight he showed the type of court vision and aggressiveness that makes K-State a favorite to wrest the Big 12 title from the Kansas Jayhawks.

Rodriguez wasn’t alone in playing well for K-State. Shane Southwell (18 points) and McGruder (10) did their part, and Jordan Henriquez (10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks) was huge.

Perhaps most encouraging for the long-term success of the Wildcats this season was the razor-sharp execution that was evident from start to finish against a talented if directionless Baylor team. Even backups Martavious Irving and Thomas Gipson got in on the action, teaming for a beautiful bounce pass and lay-in.

The Big 12 race can remain a three-way if Kansas beats Texas (with Myck Kabongo this time around) tonight. Should the Jayhawks – who have looked very vulnerable this year – lose, expect the Cowboys and Wildcats to go hard at it in hopes of leading the changing of the guard. The best news? K-State and Oklahoma State meet one another in each team’s final game of the regular season.

Should be a barn-burner. As a native Midwesterner, I use the term advisedly.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.