WACO, Texas _ Kansas State has played the No. 1 ranked team in the country and will host the nation's No. 2 squad later this week, but Jacob Pullen believes today's game against No. 24 Baylor holds the same importance as either of those glamorous matchups.
Why? Because the 7 p.m. tip will take place at the Ferrell Center.
"We've got to go steal one," said Pullen, a junior guard. "That's the only way we can still win this Big 12 championship, if we go win on the road."
At 16-3 overall and 3-2 in league play, K-State is by no means off to a slow start. But following an unexpected home loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, the No. 11 Wildcats certainly have ground to make up in the conference race.
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"You can't lose at home," said K-State coach Frank Martin. "That's unacceptable."
Baylor coach Scott Drew agrees.
"If you're going to be successful in the Big 12," he said, "you have to be successful at home, because it is so tough to win on the road. We know the importance every time we have a home game, and we have to protect our home court."
That's just the way it works in the Big 12 these days, where seven teams are still undefeated on their home floors.
For that reason, Pullen and Martin have both used the word "steal" to describe how difficult winning at Baylor will be. Not only are the Bears yet to lose at home this season, but they have found great success against the Wildcats recently.
A year ago in Manhattan, they crushed K-State 83-57 behind a game-high 33 points from junior guard LaceDarius Dunn. Two years ago in Waco, Baylor held off the Wildcats 92-86 despite Michael Beasley and Bill Walker combining for 75 points.
Martin has yet to defeat Baylor as a head coach, and he immensely respects the Bears.
"I'm concerned about everything," Martin said. "I'm concerned about playing away from home, I'm concerned about their front line, I'm concerned about LaceDarius Dunn scoring 30. They're a good basketball team."
Baylor has shown its talent several times this season. It has beaten Oklahoma by 31, Arkansas by 23 and gave Kansas everything it could handle last week in Allen Fieldhouse.
But the Wildcats have played well away from home this season, and responded well to their other two losses, winning 10 straight after losing to Mississippi and winning three in a row after falling to Missouri.
It will definitely be a challenge, but freshman guard Rodney McGruder believes another winning streak is on the way.
"We're going to bounce back just fine," he said.