Baylor is one of seven ranked squads in the 10-team Big 12, so its conference schedule is obviously a tough one. Its next game Saturday is against one of the three non-Top 25 teams, but Kansas State hasn’t been a pushover of late.
The 22nd-ranked Bears look to build on a victory over the No. 11 team in the nation when they visit the Wildcats, who have already defeated a ranked Big 12 foe during their three-game winning streak.
Baylor (13-3, 2-2) opened league play with a 73-63 loss at No. 18 Oklahoma on Jan. 3 and fell 56-55 at home to then-No. 12 Kansas on Jan. 7. It visited TCU last Saturday and won 66-59 in overtime before hosting Iowa State on Wednesday.
The Bears jumped out to a 16-1 lead and were ahead by 14 points with 8 1/2 minutes remaining, but they needed Kenny Chery’s jumper with 4.7 seconds left to pull out a 74-73 victory.
“I think that’s the Big 12,” coach Scott Drew said. “Our last three games have come down to the last minute, one went to overtime and two were decided in the last few seconds. That’s what makes the league so good. There is no off night. There is no night when you can play bad and get away with a win.”
Chery hit the winning basket after missing 12 of his previous 13 attempts. He’s struggled in three of the four conference games, shooting 23.7 percent (9 for 38) against Oklahoma, TCU and Iowa State. The senior guard shot 8 of 14 and hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range to score 25 versus the Jayhawks.
“It’s not like this was last week’s game against Kansas where he was really feeling it and knocking down shots,” Drew said. “To hit that shot after not being as efficient from the field as he normally is I thought that showed a lot of poise, character and guts.”
Chery had a career-high 29 points in the last meeting with Kansas State, a 76-74 victory at Manhattan on March 8, and recorded the only triple-double of his career with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in an 87-73 double-overtime win over the Wildcats on Feb. 15.
The Bears haven’t won three straight in the series since March 1, 2000-Jan. 16, 2002, and the Wildcats (10-7, 3-1) enter this matchup after tying their season-high win streak with a 58-51 home victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday.
Kansas State won 66-63 in overtime at then-No. 16 Oklahoma last Saturday for its fourth straight regular-season victory over a ranked Big 12 team.
The Wildcats struggled from the field Wednesday, shooting 38.6 percent, but they held a 10th straight opponent to 65 points or fewer. It’s the longest such stretch since 1982-83, when they went 17 games.
“You know, we can’t stay complacent,” said top scorer Marcus Foster, who led the way with 14 points. “… We just got to keep grinding, defending and putting away teams.”
Foster matched Chery with 29 points in March’s meeting and scored 18 with a career-high 10 assists in the February matchup.
“Now we have Baylor, and they beat us twice last year,” coach Bruce Weber said. “The first game was a crazy game at their place. I thought we outplayed them for 38 or 39 minutes. The game here, they punked us. … They took it to us, and we did not guard them. We have got to guard them Saturday.”