Today was the first game since Scott Drew’s first season that his team is above .500 as a program, just another milestone in the long reconstruction Coach Drew has conducted in Waco. Shout out to the great Fran Frascilla for that factoid.
Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, who struggled today with 7 and 6 turnovers, respectively, iced the game with free throws as time wound down.
For their turnover woes, the Baylor trio scored the ball well. Mitchell scored 23 points, Butler 18 points, and MaCio Teague a game high 24 points. Baylor shot 41% from three and 93% from the line to make up for the abysmal turnover rate.
Teague and Mitchell came up big in the second half. Their ability to attack off the dribble really showed as they blew past their defender, either getting to the rim or floating it in over the rotation big man. Without their offense — and defense — Baylor would have been in deep trouble today. Their scoring gave Baylor a 6-0 run and a 9 points lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game. Mitchell’s next jumper gave Baylor its first double-digit lead of the game.
As the game wore on, the Bears separated. Baylor held Kansas State without a basket for three minutes as the game entered crunch time, and a three from Butler and a dunk by Flo Thamba stretched the lead to 12 points.
Kansas State hung around all game, though. Davion Bradford (18 pts), who scored 15 points in the first half, continued to give Baylor fits in the pick-and-roll. The Bears simply could not get their interior defense straight, leaving the Wildcat big wide open under the rim again and again.
A rash of turnovers from Baylor let the Wildcats creep back into the game, bringing the game to 68-63 with just 2 minutes remaining. Then Teague scored a layup and free throws put it out of reach.
Kansas State took its first lead against Baylor this season 40-39, then again at 42-41. K-State certainly looked like the sharper team to that point. After trailing by nearly 30 at halftime of the two previous matchups, it must certainly have felt gratifying for the young Wildcats.
On the Bears’ opening possession, Mark Vital showed his value by grabbing the offensive rebound and kicking the ball out to a waiting Jared Butler for the three. After the pair of opening threes, however, Baylor’s offense struggled to run smoothly throughout the game. The Bears turned the ball over 13 times, an absurd amount against a team that forces 13 turnovers over a whole game.
Kansas State’s defense early gave the Bears some trouble. The Wildcats had arms in passing lanes and active feet. The result was 7 Baylor turnovers (4 from Butler) before even the 10 minute mark. Baylor also began the game with poor shooting, shooting less than 40% FG and and less than 30% 3PT through the first quarter, resulting in a 7-0 run and a tie at 16 points. A tie a quarter into the game was certainly not what Baylor fans expected. Fast break scores and a Mayer corner three righted the ship. Great ball movement and quality looks for Kansas State kept the game tight until halftime.
Bradford was a problem in the early going. Although a freshman, his 7’ size presented a challenge for Baylor in the interior, although Butler did get a nasty block on the big guy coming from the weak side. The pick and roll coverage by Baylor on Bradford was poor in the first half. The freshman rolled into a wide open paint several times.He was complemented by the flashy cutting of DaJuan Gordon (15 pts, 5 rebs). A pair of Gordon free throws and Nijel Pack (18 pts, 4 TOs) three tied the game at 25. Baylor answered with a pair of threes.
The first game coming into tournament play can be tricky, but today was certainly not the showing Baylor expected. Their next opponent, Oklahoma State, is hot right now. Drew will need to get his team sharp tomorrow if they want to advance in the Big XII Tournament.