Led by walking double-double NaLyssa Smith, the No. 10 Baylor Bears (17-5, 7-3 Big 12) have been impressive in their back-to-back wins against the Texas Longhorns. They look to beat the Kansas State Wildcats on Wednesday and extend the half-game lead they have on them in the Big 12. The Wildcats have a similar record, currently sitting at 17-6 (7-4 Big 12), but they have too many losses against Top 25 teams to be a top-ranked team. A victory against the Bears would undoubtedly help their case.
The good news for the Wildcats is they have already beaten Baylor this season. They won 68-59 on Jan. 2, dominating Baylor early, holding them to just seven points in the first quarter and winning the battle of the boards 30-27, which is particularly impressive since the Wildcats are a more guard-heavy team. This is the only victory the Wildcats have against a Top 25 team, but it’s a good one to have when facing said team.
To beat the Bears again, the Wildcats will be relying on Ayoka Lee, who has been an absolute star all season. She’s averaging 24.7 points and 10.4 rebounds and will have her hands full against Smith on Wednesday. That matchup will be a key to the game.
The Wildcat guard quartet will also be on full display on Wednesday. Led by Serena Sundell, they’ll be trying to push the pace and counter Baylor’s size with some speed and athleticism. We’ll see if the Glenn sisters (Jaelyn and Brylee) can have a good scoring game like the one they had against Texas Tech on Saturday, when they combined for 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
Baylor is coming in feeling as confident as ever. They’ve just beaten the Longhorns in back-to-back matchups, they’ve won seven of their last eight games, and a victory on Wednesday would solidify them as the third-best team in the Big 12. They have Smith playing as good as ever and seem to be peaking at the right time.
So what do the Bears have to do to avenge their loss to the Wildcats earlier in the season? Well, it’s really about starting well and not getting into an early deficit, getting their bigs going in the beginning, and winning the rebounding battle. These are all things Baylor failed to do during its first matchup against the Wildcats.
As much as we talk about the Baylor bigs and their dominance, Baylor guard Ja’Mee Asberry needs to have a big game. She’s averaging 10.1 points, but has increased her production as of late, averaging 14.3 in the last three games. With the Wildcats being so guard-heavy, her offensive production and defensive ability will be put to the test. A good performance from her would likely put Baylor over the top.
Kansas State Wildcats (17-6, 7-4 Big 12) vs. No. 10 Baylor Bears (17-5, 7-3 Big 12)
When: Wednesday, Feb 9 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Ferrell Center in Waco, TX
Key to the matchup: The Wildcats will need to slow down the Baylor bigs by keeping them out of the paint and off the glass. If they can do that and keep turnovers to a minimum, they’ll have a chance to win. For Baylor, it’s about starting out fast and establishing their dominance by going to NaLyssa Smith early and often. They’ll need a productive game out of Ja’Mee Asberry to combat the guard-heavy Wildcats.