Kansas State has mastered the art of losing on the road.
It has fallen behind early. It has collapsed late. It has missed free throws. And it has allowed buzzer-beaters. Now, it has lost in double overtime, too.
The Wildcats have lost in nearly every way imaginable during their run of five straight road losses, but an 87-73 setback against Baylor on Saturday at the Ferrell Center was a mixture of them all. It also might be the most crushing result of the bunch.
“It’s getting really old,” said junior forward Nino Williams, who scored a career-high 20 points while starting in place of an injured Shane Southwell. “We keep putting ourselves in position to win. Last year, we were winning these games. This year we are losing them.”
Unlike previous road losses, which date to early January, K-State was in control of this one. It raced to a 30-21 halftime lead and appeared in total command midway through the second half, up 51-41. Baylor took advantage of fouls to close the gap, sure, but K-State still had a chance to close things out in regulation when Marcus Foster stepped up to the free throw line with a 56-54 advantage.
Foster, a freshman guard, has been nails since he arrived in Manhattan, and he faced an ideal scenario: make two free throws with 23.8 seconds on the clock and the game was effectively over.
Baylor would need a miracle. Instead, he made one. All it needed was a three-pointer.
The Bears then finished off an incredibly sloppy possession filled with missed shots and offensive rebounds with a game-tying three from Brady Heslip. He hadn’t made a three all night, but he was perfect when Isaiah Austin found him open on the perimeter with time winding down.
“You have to give them credit,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “The ball didn’t bounce our way.”
That got the crowd of 7,556 on its feet and appeared to give Baylor momentum, but K-State once again took a lead into the final moments of overtime. It led 67-66 after Williams, completed a three-point play.
And Foster later had a shot at two more free throws to give K-State a late lead. But he again made one of two, and the game went to double overtime.
“It hurts me a little bit,” said Foster, who scored 18 points. “I had two chances to put the game away. So I’ve just got to keep getting better and not get down about this. It’s different from high school to college, the whole atmosphere. Everybody is cheering against you rather than being neutral. It’s a whole different atmosphere when you are on the free-throw line away.”
Weber wasn’t upset with Foster, though.
“It’s all a learning experience,” Weber said. “We have got a lot of young guys. I told him the next time he has the opportunity he will make it. This is how you get better, with these experiences. Whether it is next game, down the road, or postseason, Big 12 tournament, NCAA Tournament, we are going to have close games. It’s all the little things that make a difference.”
Those little things got away from K-State in the second half.
Things spiraled completely out of control, and Baylor ended up winning by double digits. Kenny Chery had Baylor’s best stat line, finishing with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. But Cory Jefferson also had 21 points and 11 rebounds despite fouling out in the first overtime.
The Bears, 16-9 overall, 4-8 in the Big 12, have struggled throughout Big 12 play, but coach Scott Drew was in a terrific mood when he sat down for his postgame news conference.
“Finally,” Drew said, “something to smile about. You have got an excited coach, because we have definitely lost our fair share of games in this conference and we haven’t had much to cheer about.”
K-State, 17-8, 7-5, entered the game with loftier ambitions. It had just defeated Texas and Kansas on its home floor. Another victory likely would have pushed it into the national polls next week. But it wasn’t to be.
The Wildcats still have a solid NCAA Tournament resume. They could afford a loss. But it was a missed opportunity. Their only road victory came at bottom-feeder TCU at the start of conference play.
They lost their next road game badly at Kansas and had a chance to win the next four. It looked like they were finally going to get over the hump on Saturday.
“I don’t include this like the other losses,” Weber said. “We were there. We did everything we needed to win those other games we didn’t do what we needed to win. Sometimes it just doesn’t go our way.”
Still, the frustration continues.
“They are the same type of games,” Williams said. “I just think we are young and immature sometimes. Our youth and play down the stretch need to get better.”