WACO, Texas — Three days after Baylor fans shelled out $1,000 for the best seats at Ferrell Center and filled the arena to capacity for one of the biggest men's basketball games in school history, a much smaller crowd showed up to watch the Bears play Kansas State on Tuesday.
Empty green chairs outnumbered supporters at opening tip, and it stayed that way throughout the game.
Perhaps Baylor fans were experiencing a basketball hangover following a narrow loss to Kansas on Saturday with ESPN's "College GameDay" in town. Or maybe they knew this game wasn't going to be compelling enough to watch in person.
Either way, the Bears took care of business like the nation's No. 2 team was supposed to and pummeled the last-place Wildcats 85-66.
"We had no answers for them," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "They have a great team."
K-State (9-19, 2-13 Big 12) has now lost eight straight games, its longest such streak in 20 years.
This was the ugliest one of the bunch.
The 19-point loss was not K-State's most lopsided defeat of the season, but Baylor could have won by just about any margin it desired. The Bears led by 34 before Scott Drew emptied his bench in the second half and K-State closed on a 16-1 run. The Wildcats never led and only tied the score once when it matched Baylor's opening basket with a pair of free throws.
K-State was overmatched from the start and fell behind by 28 ... in the first half. Baylor (25-2, 14-1) showed off its elite defense by forcing Bruce Weber's team into myriad turnovers by cutting off passing lanes and boxing out with a passion. It also displayed offensive versatility, as nine different players scored with Matthew Mayer leading the way with 19 points.
He got lots of help from Jared Butler (16 points), Davion Mitchell (14 points) and MaCio Teague (13 points).
"They had a special game," Weber said. "Some of it is our defense. We have not been as good (as we have in recent years), which is disappointing. Some of it is our youth, some of it was foul trouble, some of it was we didn't have Montavious Murphy."
Cartier Diarra had one of his better games for the Wildcats, finishing with 19 points and six rebounds. But that wasn't nearly enough for K-State to hang with a Final Four contender on the road.
K-State's second-leading scorer was DaJuan Gordon, and he only had 12 points.
Effort didn't seem to be a problem for the Wildcats in this one, which can be viewed as either a positive or a negative. Execution was.
They simply couldn't get much of anything done against the Bears. That was most evident during the first half when K-State had more turnovers (13) than made field goals (9) and free throws (3) combined.
Things didn't get any better in the second half, as Baylor threatened to take a 40-point lead at one point.
"We were blessed because we made shots," Drew said. "I think sometimes the ball bounces right and we were able to get in transition. We have played well defensively all year, but when you make shots you can play even better on defense. We were really locked in today."
It's fascinating how much things have changed for both of these teams in the past year. At this time last season, K-State had twice beaten Baylor on its way to sharing a Big 12 championship with Texas Tech. This season, the Bears have twice defeated K-State and are tied atop the conference standings with Kansas.
The Bears have taken a huge step forward, while the Wildcats have hit rock bottom, or at least something close to it.
It seemed appropriate that Baylor students held up large cardboard cutouts of cupcakes behind the baskets during free throws. The Wildcats were an easily digestible opponent for their team.
K-State will have little time to dwell on this loss. Things don't get any easier for them this week, as they will follow up a road game against No. 2 Baylor with a home game against No. 1 Kansas on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.