Wildcats hope to present unpassable test at Baylor

Nino Williams averages 11.7 points and, at 6-foot-5, also leads Kansas State with 5.2 rebounds per game.

Ray Thompson/AP

Baylor has several challenging opponents left on its Big 12 schedule, and its recent history against Kansas State certainly qualifies this meeting as one of those tests.

Looking to avenge a tough loss in Manhattan in mid-January, the No. 20 Bears can secure their fourth straight 20-win season Saturday when they host the Wildcats.

Baylor (19-7, 7-6) suffered back-to-back losses against No. 22 Oklahoma State and eighth-ranked Kansas to close a 1-2 stretch against ranked teams before rejoining the win column with Tuesday’s 54-49 victory at Texas Tech.

Taurean Prince scored 22 off the bench for his second 20-point effort in three games, and the Bears held the Red Raiders to 35.4 percent shooting — Baylor’s best defensive performance in the last eight games.

"When you win a couple, you got some swag. When you lose a couple, you doubt yourself no matter who you are," coach Scott Drew told Baylor’s official website. "It’s tough to go on the road to snap a losing streak."

While Baylor still faces rematches after beating both No. 14 Iowa State and No. 23 West Virginia in the first meetings, the Bears have lost twice to the Cowboys and Jayhawks and also dropped their visit to then-No. 18 Oklahoma on Jan. 3. The Bears’ only Big 12 loss against a currently unranked team came Jan. 17 against Kansas State (13-14, 6-8).

Nino Williams had 18 points with seven rebounds and the Wildcats shot 50.0 percent during a 63-61 win Jan. 17 in which Baylor squandered a double-digit second-half lead.

"There are no safe leads in the Big 12," Drew said after that defeat. "You would just rather prefer to be leading than trailing."

Williams averages 11.7 points and, at 6-foot-5, also leads the team with 5.2 rebounds per game, while Thomas Gipson leads the big men at 4.8 boards. That lack of rebounding presence could hurt Kansas State against the Bears, who have outrebounded each of their last 13 opponents and rank second in the country with a plus-9.7 differential.

Baylor’s dominance on the glass is largely due to Rico Gathers, who is among the nation’s leaders with 12.2 rebounds per game. Gathers, however, has struggled against K-State in his career, managing only 3.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in five meetings. He finished with five points and six rebounds in Baylor’s earlier loss to the Wildcats.

"We beat a good top-ranked team," Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said at the time. "It’s a credit to our guys … (Baylor) is one of the best rebounding teams in the country."

The Wildcats have dropped seven of nine including a narrow 69-55 loss at TCU on Wednesday. K-State fell to 1-8 on the road and has lost 13 of its past 15 conference road games.

Kenny Chery scored a team-high 21 points against the Wildcats in January and is averaging 13.4 in conference play. Prince, who scored 20 against Kansas State, ranks third in the country among players with six or fewer starts at 13.0 points per game.