Baylor-Kansas St. Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Coach Bruce Weber prefers not to dwell on his team's most recent disappointing effort, instead focusing on the fact Kansas State still has a share of the Big 12 lead.
Baylor has legitimate hopes for a conference title as well.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats are back home looking to recover from an embarrassing loss in the first of two meetings in two weeks with the Bears on Saturday night.
Kansas State suffered its most lopsided defeat in two years Monday, falling 83-62 at No. 14 Kansas. The points allowed were 10 more than the Wildcats had given up in any other game this season after they entered the contest surrendering a league-low 58.3 per game.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak which had put Kansas State (19-5, 8-3) alone atop of the Big 12. The Wildcats are now tied for the conference lead with the Jayhawks and 17th-ranked Oklahoma State, one game up on Baylor (16-8, 7-4) and Oklahoma with seven to play.
"We're still in first place," Weber said. "I told them if we win the rest of our games, we win (at least a share of) our league. It'll be tough, but at the same time, that's how we have to approach it.
"We can't let one loss become two losses. We have a big weekend coming up with Baylor and West Virginia (on Monday)."
Rodney McGruder, averaging 20.0 points on 52.6 percent shooting over the last three games, said earlier in the week he was confident Kansas State will be able to bounce back.
"We'll see if we're going to go into practice ready to compete or are we going to feel sorry for ourselves. That's the main thing," McGruder said. "I know we're going to come in ready to fight and get ready for Baylor."
The Bears, though, appear ready to make their own stand. They've posted blowout victories over Texas Tech and West Virginia after losing three straight by a combined 13 points. Wednesday's 80-60 rout of the Mountaineers left Baylor in position to tie the Wildcats in the Big 12 standings with a victory Saturday.
The Bears haven't won a league title since sharing the 1950 Southwest Conference championship, and Kansas State last won one in 1977 as a member of the Big 8. These teams also meet March 2 in Waco.
"Every game is a big game. It makes it exciting and I think as a player you want to have a chance to win a conference championship," coach Scott Drew said. "We're in that position, so every game is a 'must game'. We just want to make sure we put our best foot forward."
Drew praised the effort of freshman Rico Gathers, who averages 6.5 points but scored a season-high 22 and hit 7 of 8 from the field. Brady Heslip also had a breakout game, making 6 of 9 from 3-point range and scoring 20 points after combining for 21 over his previous three contests.
"Brady's been shooting on offense, looking for a shot and we always feel good when he's taking shots," Drew said.
Heslip's 54 3-pointers are fourth-most in the Big 12 and teammate Pierre Jackson is second with 58 while leading the conference in scoring (18.9 ppg) and assists (6.2 apg). Baylor is 8-1 when Jackson has at least seven assists, and they're 4-5 when he has more than 20 points.
Jackson averaged 10.7 points in three meetings with Kansas State last season but dished out 8.7 assists per game as Baylor won twice. The Bears won the most recent meeting 82-74 in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, and they won 75-73 at Kansas State despite McGruder's 30 points.
Updated February 15, 2013