The K-State Wildcats (17-8, 7-5 Big 12) have been really good this season when they are playing in front of a purple-friendly crowd. The same can’t be said though when the Wildcats travel to opposing venues in the Big 12. Coming off a big win against in-state rival Kansas, one might think momentum would be on the Wildcats’ side to snap their road skid when they faced the Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas on Saturday.
Their 87-73 loss proved it wasn’t.
K-State head coach Bruce Weber’s squad did get a little bit closer to figuring out the Rubik’s cube that is a Big 12 road game. For the first time since the TCU game, the only conference road win on K-State’s resume, the Wildcats took a lead into the halftime break. From there the Bears did not lead in the entire second half.
K-State appeared to be on their way to the elusive away victory in regulation, but Baylor had other plans. The Bears grabbed three offensive rebounds in the last 11 seconds and found senior guard Brady Heslip, who drained the game tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. Heslip was 1-8 from outside the arc on Saturday, but the one he hit turned out to be the biggest shot of the afternoon.
The Wildcats and Bears duked it out for another five minutes before heading into a second overtime period. While the Wildcats were riding a four-game road losing streak, the Bears were riding a four-game home skid. The Bears were just as ready for their streak to come to an end. They had their way with the Wildcats in the second overtime, outscoring K-State 19-5. The Wildcats held the home team to only 21 points in the entire first half. In the final five minutes of the game, Baylor nearly matched that.
All season, Weber has preached “next man up.” On Saturday, that next man was junior forward Nino Williams. With senior forward Shane Southwell unable to play due to injury, it was Williams who joined the starting lineup. The junior from St. Louis finished with a career high 20 points, leading the Wildcats on the day.
As of right now, the Wildcats are still in good shape to make the NCAA tournament. What seed they end up with could ultimately be effected by their inability to get a road win. Saturday was K-State’s best opportunity in the past month to pick up that elusive win away from Bramlage Coliseum. What started as a game that had a K-State win written all over it, ended in leaving the Wildcats in worse shape then they entered. Not only has this game provided the Wildcats with a gut check, the statuses of Southwell and Williams are unknown going forward. Williams left the game late with an injury.
K-State will play TCU on Wednesday in Manhattan. Seeing as the Horned Frogs have not won a Big 12 road game since entering the conference last season, K-State may have the perfect matchup coming off of an emotional loss to get themselves going.