After a stunning fourth-quarter loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday, Kansas State — still winless in Big 12 play (0-8) — has an opportunity to record its first conference win Sunday, when it hosts No. 8 Baylor.
“We were disappointed with the loss (to Texas Tech),” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “(We were) disappointed with the way it ended. We have had a few (tough losses) that have been tough on our team. I think, overall, our team resolves itself pretty good. Our team has been able to bounce back from those disappointments.”
Not only does playing Baylor (13-2, 8-1) Sunday mean another chance at a first conference win, but the Wildcats have an opportunity to defeat a top-10 opponent.
“Life in the Big 12, you are going to face ranked teams periodically,” Mittie said. “Baylor is an outstanding team. (The Bears) have a ton of depth. Great front line, great guards — all of the above. It is a big challenge to face a team like Baylor.”
The last time K-State defeated a top-10 opponent was Jan. 14, 2012, upending No. 10 Texas Tech on the road. The last home win for K-State against a top-10 opponent was 10 days earlier, when it topped No. 9 Texas A&M on Jan. 4, 2012.
K-State has not defeated a top-10 team in Mittie’s tenure, owning an 0-26 record entering Sunday’s contest.
Sophomore Ayoka Lee, the Wildcats’ star center, will need to be a dominant force for K-State to pull off the upset.
Lee has had a recent struggle with foul trouble, which has forced her off the floor in crucial moments.
Mittie said Lee will need to play smart Sunday so she can stay on the floor.
“That is a growth area that she needs to improve on,” Mittie said. “Some of the fouls she got called for against Texas Tech were flops. The flop plays, officials need to get better at avoiding. Some of the other fouls Ayoka had, she has got to get better at avoiding. She needs to learn more awareness on when to be more aggressive and when to dial it back.”
Baylor presents a challenge to K-State in the front court.
“(Baylor) has a top freshman in (center Hannah) Gusters, and nobody probably matches up with her down low,” Mittie said. “That is anybody in the league — I include us in that. They are a team really hard to match in the front court depth. It is critically important that Lee stays out of foul trouble, as it is in most games, because we are not going to match the depth there.”
Baylor’s offense has scored 80-plus points in each of its last four games, all victories.
“You’ve got to bring the kitchen sink against Baylor,” Mittie said.
“Once they get a handle on what you are doing (defensively), they are good at attacking it. They are just talented players and well coached. You’ve got to be able to play multiple defenses at times against them. You’ve got to try to stay ahead of where they are at. Sometimes you have to switch defenses just for the sake of switching defenses.”
Turnovers have been an issue for K-State in most of its conference games. But in its recent loss to Texas Tech, K-State had the upper hand in that department.
Until the fourth quarter, K-State repeatedly forced Texas Tech into mistakes — and the Wildcats scored points off the turnovers.
“(Defensively), for us it is going to start with taking care of the ball,” Mittie said. “Live-ball turnovers are a problem. And then you don’t have a set defense, (Baylor’s) athletic ability, at that point, takes over. They throw a lob on the break as much as any team. They can really run the floor and cause a lot of problems for you at the rim. The first thing is to not turn (the ball) over.”