For a while Wednesday night, Kansas State didn’t look like a team that had lost two straight games.
The Wildcats gave the top-ranked Baylor Bears all they wanted for 20 minutes behind eight first-half 3-pointers from five different players. K-State’s first four field goals came from behind the arc and the Wildcats attempted a school-record 44 3-pointers.
With an obvious mismatch in size, K-State’s strategy was clear — keep firing from the outside. In fact, the Wildcats, who were 13 of 44 behind the arc, shot the second-most 3s ever in a Big 12 game. Though K-State never led, it was a strategy that worked for a while in an attempt to counter Baylor’s overwhelming size and 6-foot-8 senior Brittney Griner — trailing by only nine at the break.
The relative success was short-lived, though, as the Bears showed exactly why they’re the No. 1 team in the country when they opened the second half with a 21-3 barrage and cruised to a 90-69 victory at Bramlage Coliseum.
“A lot of those were open looks, and I think we put ourselves in position to put some pressure on them, if we had made those shots,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “Overall, I thought our shot selection was good. I thought we got a little bit of penetration here and there tonight, which was good. You only get a certain number of opportunities to penetrate with their bigs in there, so I was ok with the 3-point number tonight.”
It took K-State (10-7, 1-4 Big 12) nearly four minutes to get on the board in the second half until Brittany Chambers connected on her third 3-pointer of the game. The Wildcats missed their first six shots of the half and 8 of 10 with two turnovers during a span of eight minutes. The Bears, meanwhile, couldn’t miss, making 7 of 8 from the field to extend the single-digit halftime lead to 27 with 13:56 to play.
“I thought we settled down a little bit, and made adjustments, obviously on the defensive end,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “It’s another road win. I don’t like the fact that we gave up 69 points. They shot almost 50 3s, so I guess you are going to give up that many points when they shoot that many 3s.”
The Bears (15-1, 5-0) shot nearly 60 percent from the field — led by Griner’s 29 points on 12 of 19 shooting, who also added a late one-handed dunk. Brooklyn Pope added 12 points and Kimetria Madden had 11.
K-State wasn’t nearly as efficient from the field at 35 percent, but 44 of its 66 shot attempts did come from long range. Chambers led the Wildcats with 23 points, while Ashia Woods finished with 11 points and a team-high six rebounds and four steals.
“I think we competed at a higher level,” Patterson said. “We had some streaks where we made mistakes for a segment in the second half but, all and all, in terms of a 40-minute mentality, I thought we were better tonight missing a boat load of 3s.
“It’s easy to get down when you miss shots and I think the game would have taken a much different look if we had knocked down a few more of those 3-point attempts.”
Despite mismatches all over the court, the Wildcats helped their cause by the work they did on the glass — only getting outrebounded 40-32 and winning the edge on the offensive side 14-12.
“I thought we did a great job crashing the boards, which is something we put a great deal of emphasis on,” said Chambers, who had four rebounds. “We’re not nearly as big as Baylor so we needed our guards and smaller players to really step it up on the boards. A lot of times in the last few games, we’ve been disappointed that we’ve had two or three of our players go back when we can send all five to the boards.
“We need to continue to work harder, player harder and try to get those second-chance points. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
Patterson isn’t happy with the loss, because like most coaches, she doesn’t put a lot of stock into moral victories, even if Wednesday’s game was against the defending national champions. But she did find some positives to take from the game, as the Wildcats get set to face TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I was significantly more pleased with our competitive disposition than the prior four 40-minute games that we’ve played in Big 12 play,” she said. “I felt really good about that coming off the floor, but a loss is a loss and you never feel great about losing a game.
“I think we grew up in a lot of areas tonight… My main concern coming into this game was taking care of the ball at a higher level and rebounding the ball at a higher level and just bringing the disposition you have to bring as competitors. I was really pleased with that aspect overall as a team… Even though I am disappointed in the loss, I think our team took some positive strides tonight.”