By Cody Soto
No. 19 Baylor men’s basketball is getting closer to ending its run in Big 12 play, and each game counts heading into the conference tournament in a few weeks. After losing a close game in Manhattan, Kan., on Jan. 17, the Bears got revenge and took a critical 69-42 win over Kansas State on Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.
The win for Baylor (20-7, 8-6 Big 12) marked its seventh 20-win season in the last eight years under head coach Scott Drew. The team had only three prior 20-win seasons in program history before Drew was hired in 2003.
The Bears had one of their best first half performances against the Wildcats, only turning the ball over once during the first 20 minutes of regulation. The team held Kansas State to only shooting 1-of-16 three pointers during the entire game, suffocating the outside attack for the Wildcats.
“We really focused in on the shooters tonight,” junior forward Rico Gathers said. “When we went out there to contest, they didn’t get as many looks as they would have liked. When you are able to do that it keeps the game out of reach, because once you get shooters going that’s when you can cut into a lead.”
Things got a lot messier in the second half for Baylor. The Bears turned the ball over nine times in the second half, but still limited the Wildcats to only scoring nine points off the turnovers. During that time, the Bears were shooting 1-for-11 from the field before Gathers stepped in and helped spark a near perfect shooting percentage to end the game.
“I would like to stop seeing the lull at the start of the second half,” Drew said. “The last couple of games that has been a trouble area for us at home and this year. We had a big enough lead that we were able to take a punch.”
Compared to the team’s scrappy 54-49 win against Texas Tech last Wednesday, the Bears only shot two three pointers in the second half and finished with a 50 percent average. Baylor had attempted 11 shots while only getting six points on the board from beyond the arc against the Red Raiders.
Baylor played a much more balanced game against the Wildcats as it shot 49 percent from the field and had five players score in double figures on Saturday. Junior forward Taurean Prince led the Bears with 14 points and was 6-for-11 during the matchup.
Gathers captured his 14th double-double performance of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds; no other Big 12 player has more than seven double-doubles this season.
The Bears received contributions across the boards and posted 24 assists on 27 made field goals during the win over Kansas State. Previously, the Bears had seven against the Red Raiders on Wednesday night.
“We did a good job tonight taking the ball to the basket and getting them in foul trouble,” Drew said. “We only shot two threes in the second half, but we were able to be really efficient.”
Gathers and freshman forward Johnathan Motley developed a strong interior presence and brought down 19 of the Bears’ 36 rebounds during the game. No Kansas State player had more than six rebounds at the end of the game.
“We had 40 deflections; everyone was just flying around trying to get the job done,” Prince said. “When you have 40 deflections as a team, you are getting easy looks on fast breaks. That is what we did, we played good defense.”
Now, the Bears get put to the test once again as they travel to face No. 12 Iowa State at 8 p.m. on Wedesday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. The Bears have never won at Hilton, but will have their chance in the ESPNU-televised matchup.