WACO, Texas (AP)—Brandon McKnight is finally becoming a scorer for No. 21 Purdue.
McKnight had his second straight 20-point game, scoring six of his 23 in a game-turning run before halftime, and the Boilermakers beat Baylor 76-65 on Saturday.
“I’ve been telling him that for two years, that he needs to score more,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said. “It’s unusual for us to be saying that to a point guard, but he needs to become more aware of scoring opportunities.”
Keady has done his part to help by gradually increasing the playing time for Austin Parkinson. That allows Parkinson to run the point and gives McKnight more freedom to score.
McKnight was averaging 6.3 points a game before scoring 21—20 after halftime—in a loss at Colorado State on Tuesday night. He scored 16 in the first half against Baylor to push the Boilermakers (10-3) to a 39-24 lead.
“It’s going to be important for me to score, but not force it and take what the defense gives me,” said McKnight, whose career high before this week had been 11 points. “With Austin, I don’t have to worry about running the show.”
Baylor (5-7), with just 10 players in uniform after senior starters Terrance Thomas and R.T. Guinn were ruled academically ineligible, stayed close until McKnight paced the Boilermakers’ 14-5 run in the final 5:14 of the first half.
Consecutive baskets after Baylor turnovers gave the Boilermakers, who had lost two of their last three games, their first double-figure lead at 30-19.
Ivan Kartelo’s free throw started the half-ending spurt and a turnover led to McKnight’s driving reverse layup. After Baylor lost the ball again, McKnight passed back-and-forth with Austin Parkinson before another layup.
McKnight also hit a jumper before halftime. Then after Kartelo missed an inside shot, McKnight rebounded and passed to Kenneth Lowe for a 3-pointer that gave Purdue a 39-24 halftime lead.
Baylor trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half, and managed to close to 68-57 on Corey Herring’s jumper with five minutes left that capped a 15-5 run. The closest the Bears got was 72-65 on Harvey Thomas’ 3-pointer with 20 seconds left.
“With limited numbers, you need a closer game so you don’t have to exert all of that energy to come back,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Thomas led Baylor with 20 points, and Tommy Swanson had 16. They were among four starters who played 36 minutes each.
Matt Keifer added 13 points for Purdue, while Brett Buscher had 12 points and Kartelo 13 rebounds. The Boilermakers, 10-3 for the third time in four seasons, open Big Ten play Wednesday at Iowa.
Without 11-game starters Terrance Thomas and Guinn, and junior guard Ellis Kidd (13.3 points per game in seven starts)—dismissed from the team Dec. 16 for violating team policy—first-year coach Drew has just five scholarship players.
Thomas and Guinn were on the bench, and Drew said they would remain part of the team for now. Baylor has one more game before Big 12 play begins next weekend at No. 19 Texas.
The loss of the three starters isn’t related to an internal investigation of the team. The school has already imposed a two-year probation against itself and won’t play in this year’s Big 12 tournament.
A university committee is looking into violations that occurred under former coach Dave Bliss. The violations became known following the disappearance of player Patrick Dennehy this summer, and after his body was found former teammate Carlton Dotson was charged with murder.