On paper, Kansas State’s game at No. 2 Baylor on Tuesday appeared to be a mismatch.
On the floor, Kansas State’s game at No. 2 Baylor on Tuesday .... was a mismatch.
The Wildcats simply had no answers for one of the best teams in the country, falling 85-66 to the Bears at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
“They just kind of toyed with us today,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said during his postgame radio show.
Baylor scored the first two points of the contest before K-State senior wing Xavier Sneed knocked down a pair of free throws. And then that was it — the Bears went on a 9-0 run to grab an 11-2 advantage. The Wildcats then went on 5-0 run of their own to trim the deficit to 11-6.
That’s as close as K-State (9-19, 2-13 Big 12) got the rest of the way as it lost its eighth consecutive outing, extending the longest skid in Weber’s eight-year tenure as head coach. It’s the program’s worst stretch since losing 11 straight games in the final season of the Tom Asbury era in 1999-2000.
At the break, Baylor had more than doubled up its visitors, owning a dominant 50-24 lead. The 26-point halftime deficit tied the fourth-worst margin in K-State’s history, trailing only a trio of 27-point deficits — all of which, ironically, came during that 1999-2000 campaign: twice to Kansas (at home and at the Big 12 Tournament) and once against Arizona (on the road to open the season in the Preseason NIT).
Perhaps the lone positive for the Wildcats Tuesday came at the end of the game: They scored 16 unanswered points in a three-minute span in the closing moments. The problem for K-State is that this surge didn’t begin until Baylor coach Scott Drew put a lineup of walk-ons into the game.
By then, the result had long since been decided.
Looking at the stat sheet afterward, Weber couldn’t believe the Bears made 13 of their 28 attempts from beyond the 3-point line.
“I didn’t think they missed, to be honest,” Weber said. “They hit some tough ones, but you get into a little bit of a heat check and then you’re loose and free and you get a lead and shots go in. They’re a very good team. They’ve got great guard play. They’re older. They help each other: 19 assists, 11 turnovers. You get assists when you make shots, there’s no doubt.”
Nearly an inverse of the Wildcats’ final numbers: 11 assists, 18 turnovers. Of all the forgettable aspects of Tuesday’s lopsided loss, none bothered Weber more than his team’s carelessness.
“It’s just too many. Too many,” said Weber, referring to the Wildcats’ 18 giveaways. “(The Bears are) good and they’re tough and physical, but we told them that. (We said), ‘You’ve got to play strong. You’ve got to rip it through. If you’re going to the hoop, if you go out sideways, you’re going to yell at the ref and say it’s a foul instead of driving to the basket.’”
It was a bounceback performance for the Bears (25-2, 14-1), which saw their school-record 23-game win streak end Saturday at the hands of Kansas. They used a balanced effort to get back in the win column Tuesday, with five players scoring in double-figures, led by Matthew Mayer’s 19 points off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. Jared Butler (16 points), Davion Mitchell (14), MaCio Teague (13) and Freddie Gillespie (10) also recorded double-digit efforts.
“I told the guys this: Butler is probably going to get all the accolades, but Mitchell might be the MVP on their team,” said Weber, referring to the transfer from Auburn who dished out a game-high 10 assists Tuesday. “He guards, he disrupts.”
K-State junior guard Cartier Diarra matched Mayer for top scorer honors with 19 points, knocking down 7 of his 11 shots in the loss. Fellow junior guard Mike McGuirl, back in the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 11, scored 10 points (3-for-3 on 3s) while freshman guard DaJuan Gordon had 12 points off the bench.
Weber and his coaching staff had hoped inserting McGuirl — more of a defensive stopper than Gordon or junior college transfer David Sloan — back into the starting five might provide a boost the Wildcats had lacked recently.
“We thought, ‘Give Mike a little confidence,’” Weber said. “DaJuan and David have struggled defensively, so we just thought maybe a little change might do something a little different. Obviously, it wasn’t the right answer.”
K-State’s slate doesn’t get any lighter later this week, when it hosts top-ranked KU at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Any chance at upsetting the Jayhawks, unlikely as it seems given the chasm between the Sunflower Showdown participants’ recent levels of play, rests on three keys Weber shared with his team in Tuesday’s postgame locker room
“I told them, one, they have to have character. Two, they have to be embarrassed with how they played. And then they’ve got to come back Thursday and Friday with great focus and get ready for Kansas,” Weber said. “It’s a team that just came here and won. It’s not going to be easy, but crazier things have happened. We’re going to have to be special on Saturday.”