Waco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - With their chances of catching first-place Kansas getting slimmer by the day, the 20th-ranked Baylor Bears will put their best foot forward as they entertain the Kansas State Wildcats at the Ferrell Center on Saturday.
Kansas State dropped a 69-55 decision at TCU on Wednesday night, marking its sixth loss in the last seven games, and saddling the team with a 13-14 overall record, and a 6-8 league ledger. It was the Wildcats' fifth consecutive road loss, and they have won only once in nine opportunities on enemy hardwood this season.
Baylor enters the weekend sporting a 19-7 record, and its 7-6 conference mark has it three games off the pace set by first-place Kansas with only five games left to play, including this one. The Bears put the brakes on a brief two-game slide by outlasting Texas Tech on the road this past Tuesday, 54-49. It tied for the second-lowest scoring output of the season for BU, which is hoping to improve its record in front of the hometown faithful to 14-2 with a victory over the Wildcats.
These two teams met in Manhattan back on Jan. 17, and it was Kansas State that prevailed in a 63-61 final. Nino Williams scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to pace the Wildcats in both categories, while Kenny Chery drained four 3-pointers en route to 21 points for the Bears in defeat.
As a result, K-State's lead in the all-time series increased to 17-14, and it snapped a brief two-game losing streak to the Bears in the process.
Williams logged his third double-double of the season by netting 14 points and pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds, but that effort wasn't enough to get the Wildcats over the hump in their recent clash with TCU. Kansas State couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, going just 4-of-25 from the floor, while the Horned Frogs knocked down a sizzling 63.6 percent of their total shots to claim a 35-15 halftime lead. The 'Cats responded by hitting half of their field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes, but it was too little, too late. In addition to Williams, Tre Harris tallied 14 points and Thomas Gipson added 12 for KSU, which lost the game despite owing a decided advantage on the glass (37-28).
Kansas State is one of the lowest scoring teams in the Big 12, putting up a mere 63.7 ppg, which is somewhat surprising considering it ranks third in the conference in 3-point shooting (.360). The Wildcats are a decent defensive squad, as they permit 63.4 ppg, although by allowing opponents to connect on 44.5 percent of their total shots, they have come out on the short end more times than they would like. Adding to its woes, KSU has had all kinds of trouble in close to the basket, grabbing the fewest rebounds of any team in the league (31.6 rpg), while also blocking the fewest shots (61). Marcus Foster is averaging 13.6 ppg, and he is joined in double figures by Williams (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Gipson (11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
Baylor was fortunate to be playing last-place Texas Tech earlier in the week, as the Bears shot just 38.3 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers. On the other side, the hapless Red Raiders made good on only 35.4 percent of their total shots, missing 19 of their 24 3-point tries along the way. A 37-27 rebounding advantage helped the cause for Baylor, which got 22 points from Taurean Prince and 10 from Lester Medford. The Bears were lucky they had built a 34-26 lead at the break, as they converted only 5-of-20 field goal attempts in the final frame.
Baylor is a middle-of-the-pack club in terms of offensive production, ranking fifth in the conference at 69.2 ppg. The Bears, who boast three double-digit scorers in Prince (13.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Chery (11.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Rico Gathers (11.1 ppg, 12.2 rpg), have really excelled at the defensive end in allowing just 59.5 ppg, which ranks a few tenths of a point behind Texas for the top spot in the conference. BU is also among the league leaders in field goal percentage defense (.393, fourth), 3-point FG percentage defense (.295, first) and rebounding margin (+9.7, first). Despite having an assist-to- turnover ratio of 1.14 (third in the Big 12), the Bears rank near the bottom in turnover margin (-0.96, eighth).