Kansas St.-Baylor Preview

The Associated Press

Baylor heads into the Big 12 tournament looking to improve its seed for the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State is seeking a second victory over the Bears as it tries to add another impressive victory to its NCAA resume.

The 12th-ranked and fourth-seeded Bears face the fifth-seeded Wildcats in the quarterfinals Thursday in Kansas City.

Baylor (25-6) is coming off an 80-72 loss at Iowa State on Saturday, marking only its second loss to an unranked team all season.

It gave up its most points since an 89-88 loss to then-No. 5 Missouri on Jan. 21 while allowing the Cyclones to shoot 45.6 percent. The Bears ranked fourth in the 10-team conference allowing opponents to shoot 40.7 percent on the season.

"I know defensively, we've got to guard a lot better if we're going to be successful in the postseason," coach Scott Drew said. "That's what we'll focus on."

Pierre Jackson scored a season-high 35 points and Perry Jones III had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Baylor, which lost its regular-season finale for the third time in four years.

"It's a new start," Jones said. "We're 0-0, starting all over. Just play hard, play defense."

Jackson was held to nine points and committed five turnovers while Jones had four points and fouled out in a 57-56 home loss to Kansas State on Feb. 18.

That began a run of four wins in five games for the Wildcats (21-9), including 78-68 at then-No. 3 Missouri on Feb. 21. That and the victory over then-No. 9 Baylor last month are two of Kansas State's three wins over teams ranked in the top 10.

"I have been extremely pleased with how our team has played the last four, maybe five, weeks of the season," coach Frank Martin said.

Rodney McGruder, who scored 24 points Saturday, had 15 in the win over Baylor last month. He scored 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting in a 75-73 home loss to the Bears on Jan. 10.

"Whatever happened in the Big 12 (regular season) is over with now," McGruder said. "If you do not win in the tournament you go home anyways. So it is a new season, a new record, and a new everything."

The Wildcats have won four of the last five meetings - including 82-75 on March 12, 2010, in the conference tournament semifinals - though each game has been decided by eight or fewer points.

Baylor is 8-2 in games decided by five or fewer points, and it may be in for another defensive battle Thursday.

"I do not know how (the last meeting) will affect the game on Thursday," Martin said. "Sometimes you go on and play great defense and you end up in a 79-78 game and there is really nothing that you can do about it, it is just the path that the game takes.

"Especially right now defensively, I think that our guys are fresh, taking a lot of pride, and what I thought in the beginning of the year is really coming around."

The winner will face top-seeded Kansas or ninth-seeded Texas A&M in the semifinals Friday.

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