(13) Kansas State (23-5) at Baylor (17-11)
Saturday, March 2, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ferrell Center (10,284) -- Waco, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: KSU 16-1, BU 11-4. Away Record: KSU 6-2, BU 4-6. Neutral Record: KSU 1-2, BU 2-1. Conference Record: KSU 12-3, BU 8-7. Series Record: Kansas State leads, 15-12.
GAME NOTES: The 13th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats are hoping to keep pace atop the Big 12 Conference standings, and they'll play their 29th game of the season on Saturday when they invade the Ferrell Center for a showdown with the Baylor Bears.
Kansas State comes into this contest sporting a 23-5 overall mark, and the team has won 12 of its 15 conference bouts, tying it with rival Kansas for first place in the Big 12 with only three games remaining. The Wildcats have won four straight and eight of their last nine -- the lone setback in that stretch coming against the Jayhawks in Lawrence on Feb. 11. Texas Tech was K- State's latest victim, the Red Raiders falling in a 75-55 final in Manhattan this past Monday.
Baylor has had an up-and-down season, logging a 17-11 overall record, which includes an 8-7 league ledger. The Bears are currently sixth in the Big 12 standings, but can finish as high as third if they win out and get some help along the way. BU won at West Virginia on Wednesday night, 65-62, putting the brakes on a three-game slide. It was only the third win for the Bears since running off three in a row from Jan. 19-26.
Kansas State owns a 15-12 lead in the all-time series with Baylor, which includes an 81-61 rout of the Bears in Manhattan on Feb. 16.
The Wildcats own the Big 12's best scoring defense, as it allows just 59.7 ppg, with foes shooting only 41.7 percent from the field, which includes a 30.7 percent showing from 3-point range. When they have the ball, the 'Cats put up 69.7 ppg in hitting 44 percent of their total shots, which houses the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in the conference (.362). K-State leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.36), while ranking second in turnover margin (+2.5) and third in rebounding margin (+4.5). Rodney McGruder (14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Angel Rodriguez (11.1 ppg, 5.2 apg) pace the club's offensive effort, but it was Thomas Gipson who spearheaded the Wildcats' attack in the recent win over Texas Tech, as he hit for 20 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Rodriguez added 16 points and seven assists, and Nino Williams chipped in with 11 points and seven boards in 15 minutes of action off the bench. McGruder finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. As a team, Kansas State shot 50.9 percent from the field, but missed 13 of its 16 3-point attempts. The game was close at the break (31-30 in favor of KSU), but the 'Cats turned up the heat in the second half to win comfortably. K-State manhandled Tech on the glass, 41-20.
Scoring points certainly hasn't been Baylor's problem this season, the team netting 74.9 ppg to rank second in the Big 12. The Bears boast the league's top scorer in Pierre Jackson (19.1 ppg, 6.4 apg), who also happens to be the No. 1 assist man in the conference as well. Isaiah Austin (13.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg) has also been highly productive, as has Cory Jefferson (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg), but BU has been rather lax at the defensive end, yielding 65.6 ppg, despite doing an admirable job limiting the opposition's success from long range (.306). Austin was high man for the Bears in their recent win at West Virginia, scoring 21 points, while Jackson struggled from the field (4-of-13) but still managed to generate 15 points, and he tacked on six boards and five assists for good measure. A.J. Walton pitched in with 10 points for a Baylor squad that shot 43.4 percent from the floor, but missed 14 of its 18 3-point attempts. The Bears committed only eight turnovers in the game, while limiting the Mountaineers to 35.7 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 3-of-17 effort from beyond the arc.
The Bears are sure to play with fire in one of their final home games of the season, but if Jackson struggles at all they will be hard-pressed to keep up with the mighty Wildcats. In the end, expect K-State to prevail in what should be a wildly-entertaining clash.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas State 75, Baylor 71
03/02 10:46:56 ET