With Makai Mason (toe) and King McClure (knee) out due to injury, the short-handed Baylor Bears (15-8, 6-4) fell to a sneaking Kansas State (17-6, 8-2) at home 70-63.
Tonight, Baylor was an energy team that just didn’t have the horses to get across the finish line. Devonte Bandoo (15 points, 2 steals) and Freddie Gillespie (13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) had excellent games as spot-starters. Gillespie, in particular, was at the center of everything good for the Bears. Gillespie was outstanding as a screen setter and finishing on pick-and-roll opportunities. His energy on the glass and on defense was often what held together a team that couldn’t keep up with a more talented K-State team.
Baylor’s chances of winning hinged on how well Kansas State shot from outside. Unfortunately for the Bears, K-State shot above their average at 35.6% (9-26). Kamau Stokes (20 points) and Barry Brown Jr. (13 points) were a combined 6-13 from three. The defense held Dean Wade (12 points, 7 rebounds) to a modest 4-10 from the floor. Wade was harassed by double teams most of the game, sometimes before he could even touch the ball. The game plan for tonight was to keep the ball out of Wade’s hands and hope K-State’s shooters would miss enough shots. It was the right plan, especially given the personnel issues, but it didn’t turn out Baylor’s way.
Part of that difficulty was with their own three-point shooting. The Bears shot 25% (6-24) from deep. Jared Butler (13 points), who played an overall good game, was too quick to pull the trigger on several occasions. He was 3-10, while Bandoo was 1-6. If both of those two had hit at their averages, Baylor might have won tonight’s game.
The team effort was great all game. For the most part, player and ball movement were excellent. The point distribution between the players is a testament to that. Baylor really needed someone to step up in a big way, though, and no one could quite lift the load. Mario Kegler (8 points, 4 rebounds) was a ghost for most of this game. He had a couple of moments when he bullied a smaller defender or ran out in transition, but his offensive game was limited. He couldn’t take advantage of his strength on drives. That wasn’t helped, of course, by the fact that he was mostly on the floor with two other non-shooters in Mark Vital and one of Gillespie or Flo Thamba. Even still, a player of his size and athleticism needs to find ways to get to the rim.
Obim Okeke was the first guard off the bench, a sign of just how far Darius Allen has fallen in his coaches’ estimation. Okeke was far more involved in the offense than he needed to be. The ball found his hands frequently, perhaps because K-State’s defenders weren’t very concerned if it got there.
Baylor’s next game is on Monday at home hosting Oklahoma. With a tough schedule ahead, the Bears need a win to protect their home floor and keep their Tournament dreams alive despite suffering a disparaging number of injuries to key players this season.