The Kansas State basketball team spent lots of time on the road this week, opting to remain in the Lone Star State between matchups with TCU and Baylor. It was a lenghty, five-day trip filled with practice and down time that felt as if it may never end.
Two excruciating losses embedded the experience into the Wildcats’ memories.
Baylor blew away K-State 69-42 on Saturday at the Ferrell Center, three days after failing to put up a fight against TCU. It was the team’s lowest scoring output since 2006 and its most lopsided loss of the season, another crushing blow in a year filled with them.
“Nobody is on the same page,” said senior K-State forward Thomas Gipson after scoring a team-high 11 points. “That is just what happens when you are not on the same page. You get distant from each other and you don’t play as a team. You get beat by 27.”
This result stung Gipson in a way others have not. He showed more frustration than usual, calling out everyone on the roster, including himself. He doesn’t think anyone is playing with the effort it takes to win.
“It’s frustrating that we lost, period,” Gipson said. “But for them to beat us by 27 points, that means we just laid down at the end and let them do whatever they wanted to do. That is not good for us. That is not how K-State basketball does it.”
When asked to describe the mood of K-State’s postgame locker room, he simply shook his head.
“I can’t,” Gipson said. “I don’t know, but, for me, I’m mad. I can’t speak for everybody else. (I’m mad) because the season is not good right now and this is my last year.”
Time is running out on the Wildcats as they try to fix things.
Baylor, 20-7 overall and 8-6 in the Big 12, was too tall, too strong and too skilled for K-State, 13-15 and 6-9. The Bears raced to a 39-25 halftime lead and weathered the Wildcats’ only challenge early in the second half to secure a stress-free victory.
K-State will have to be much better to win any of its final three games leading up to the Big 12 Tournament, starting Monday against No. 8 Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum.
“The way we play at home, I don’t think there is any doubt we can play at a high level,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Now, can we play good enough to beat them? We are going to have to guard. We can’t do what we did at the start of the first Kansas game and what we did tonight, allowing layups. Hopefully, we can get our mind-set right and use the crowd and get after them a little bit.”
K-State got after Baylor only at the start of the second half, opening the period on an 8-0 run. But Baylor answered back with a demoralizing run of its own behind Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Lester Medford.
Gathers, a double-double machine, had 13 points and 10 rebounds on the same day he was honored for breaking Baylor’s single-game rebounding record. Prince led all scorers with 14 points and Medford had 12 points.
That balanced attack was too much for K-State. Baylor built its lead behind high-quality outside shooting (sinking seven of 14 three-pointers in the first half) and grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound.
K-State answered by making one of 16 three-point attempts.
“You have to make some threes,” Weber said. “Oklahoma State came in here last week and made threes. When we have played well against them we made threes. You can’t go one or 16.”
That spelled doom for the Wildcats. Then Baylor wore them down with its size and depth.
“We came out of the second or third media timeout in the second half and made sure we buckled down on defense,” Gathers said, “and just shared the ball and moved the ball around … That is great basketball.”
It led to K-State’s most lopsided loss since a 70-47 setback to Pittsburgh in the Maui Invitational. It matched a 27-point loss to Georgetown last season as the worst loss of the Weber era.
K-State did not lead for a single second against TCU or Baylor.
“It gets old and it gets kind of frustrating, but we are just going through growing pains,” said sophomore K-State guard Jevon Thomas after scoring six points. “Everything is not going to be perfect. This happens. This is basketball. You are going to go through a down season and you are going to go through down time.
“You just have to learn from it. I understand next year if we go through the same things something has to be changed. But we are young and this is stuff we have to go through.”
Weber put it more simply.
“All season, it’s been Groundhog Day,” he said. “You just keep waking up.”
Only this time, Gipson is pushing his teammates for change.
“We are just not mentally tough enough to push through and make the plays to get us in the lead and to win,” Gipson said.” That is basically what it boils down to. We are not tough enough.”
For the box score for this game, please click here.