No. 1 Baylor looks to avoid letdown at Kansas State

NCAA Basketball

Top-ranked Baylor puts its 18-game winning streak on the line on Monday night against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan.

The Bears (19-1, 8-0 Big 12) defeated TCU 68-52 on Saturday and haven’t lost since Nov. 8, but their lead over Kansas in the conference is only one game. Baylor defeated the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., on Jan. 11 and host the rematch in Waco, Texas, on Feb. 22, but the Bears aren’t looking past teams like the Wildcats (9-12, 2-6).

Baylor coach Scott Drew knows that being No. 1 is great, but it also puts a bullseye on the backs of his players.

“Many people don’t have a chance to be No.1, so you’re going to get their best game,” Drew said. “No motivation is needed, and it’s hard for your team each and every night to have that commitment level. We’ve been blessed to have that so far.”

The Bears are led by three players averaging in double figures. Jared Butler (15.1 points per game), MaCio Teague (14.1) and Freddie Gillespie (10.1) are all new to starring roles. Butler made the Big 12 All-Freshman team last season, but he was fourth on the team in scoring. Teague is in his first year for the Bears after sitting out last year as a transfer from UNC-Asheville. Gillespie started his career at Division III Carleton College in Minnesota. He averaged just 5.3 points per game last season.

“We have guys who have transferred, came from junior college, came from Division III, that may have been overlooked,” Gillespie said. “We pride ourselves in working hard and doing the work that other people may think they are too good for.”

Kansas State is coming off a 66-57 loss at West Virginia. After beating the Mountaineers 84-68 two weeks earlier in Manhattan — hitting 9 of 18 shots from 3-point range — the Wildcats were just 3 of 17 from long range Saturday.

“That’s the low of the year for us and it makes it tough,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You know that’s probably why we beat them at our place. We made those shots. We spread the defense. It makes it tough. We still outscored them, I think, in points in the paint (28 to 22), which is not very easy to do. You know, so we did some good things. We just need to be a little better.”

Leading scorer Xavier Sneed has been struggling lately. His point total has decreased in each of the last three games, including just 11 at West Virginia. He’s still averaging 14.4 points per game, one of two (Cartier Diarra, 12.8) Wildcats above 7.2 points per game.

“I think (Sneed) just has to take a deep breath, and I keep telling him that,” Weber said. “Enjoy your last year of college. It’s tough on seniors with high expectations, and he wants it so bad he almost over does it. The only way I know for shooting (improvement) is to get in the gym.

“If you can’t hit in baseball, you get in the batting cage and you start with the tee, work on your stroke. Then, you do slow pitches and speed it up. Basketball, you get in the gym and start with 2-foot shots, 4-foot shots, 6-foot shots. Get the rhythm back. Get the stroke back.”

–Field Level Media

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