Kansas State is tied for first place in the Big 12 but will have to pass a major test on Saturday to stay there: beat the undefeated and No. 2 Baylor Bears in Manhattan, Kansas.
The Wildcats (3-4, 1-0 Big 12) have won two straight games after losing four of their first five games — including one to Division II Fort Hays State — that had them off to their worst start to a season since 1965.
Now, they are looking for a statement win against the Bears (4-0), who are opening their conference slate.
“I’m obviously very, very happy for our guys,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said after his team opened Big 12 play with a 74-65 win at Iowa State on Tuesday. “A week ago Tuesday (the loss to Fort Hays State) was not a very good day. They came together. If going through the loss last week brings our team together, I’ll take all the criticism. I’ll take all the gruff. It doesn’t matter. It brought those guys together.”
Baylor has gotten off to stellar start. The Bears are 17th among Division I teams (fifth among Power 5 teams) in scoring (90.8 points per game), and 14th (sixth among Power 5 teams) in scoring margin (27). Baylor is shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 46.8 percent from 3-point range, which is second in the nation.
They have five players averaging in double-figures, led by Jared Butler and Adam Flagler at 15.3 points per game each. MaCio Teague (14), Davion Mitchell (12.5) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (10) join them.
The Bears have not played since Dec. 9 because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Their much-anticipated game against No. 1 Gonzaga was canceled on Dec. 5 because of COVID in the Gonzaga program, and their conference opener vs. Texas (Dec. 12) and a game against Tarleton State (Dec. 15) were also postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
“This is a disappointing time for everyone involved with our program, but we will always prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “The Big 12 Conference prepared for this possibility by leaving the final week of the regular season open, and we look forward to hosting Texas at a later date. Our program will return to competition as soon as we can do so safely.”
When the Bears were playing, they were impressive. They won three of their four games by at least 30 points. The lone exception was a 13-point win over then-No. 5 Illinois on Dec. 2.
K-State, who is tied with Oklahoma atop the conference standings, will look to Mike McGuirl, the team’s lone senior, who averages 13.4 points per game. DaJuan Gordon, who had his first career double-double against Iowa State, and Nijel Pack are averaging 10 points per game.
–Field Level Media