It was a loss on the scoreboard, but it was a great game from the Wildcats.
Give Bruce Weber and his players credit for how much this team has improved over the course of the season. They couldn’t play with Baylor in their first two meetings, but Thursday, they gave the Bears everything they could handle before finally losing 74-68.
Kansas State players showed Thursday how they have improved. Davion Bradford might be the best example. Bradford is better as a freshman than David McCormack was. If Bradford makes the jump many players do from their freshman season to their sophomore season, he will be a lot to deal with next season. Bradford is under control when he gets the ball. He doesn’t rush anything. He usually makes the right decision about when to go to the basket and when to pass it back out. This was an impressive freshman season for Bradford. He put up 18 points against Baylor on 6-for-9 shooting. He had just three rebounds, though. Guards should not be outrebounding him. There is plenty of room for development, but Bradford has come a long way in one season.
The guards as a whole play smarter on offense than they did earlier in the season. For example, in this game, they drove the baseline when the opportunity presented itself, breaking down the Baylor defense. On each drive, Bradford went to the basket, and several times he received the pass for an easy basket.
The guards also ran an effective lob play several times against Baylor. It didn’t work every time, but DaJuan Gordon converted at least two easy baskets that way that I can remember.
If Mike McGuirl had had just a bad night shooting instead of an awful night, the Wildcats might have won. However, Nijel Pack was outstanding from behind the arc, so maybe that offsets the McGuirl misses. But it wasn’t like McGuirl was bad. He had seven assists to help on the offensive end of the floor.
In the end, the Wildcats made too many mistakes to win a game against a team as good as Baylor. But even with their mistakes, Kansas State lost to a one-loss Baylor team by just six points and even had a lead early in the second half.
After the game, the coaching staff had a lot of positive words for the players.