Waco, Texas Baylor's basketball players figure to be ultra-focused tonight, and not just because the No. 9-ranked Kansas Jayhawks are in town.
The unranked Bears (10-9 overall, 1-7 Big 12 Conference), who play host to KU (17-5, 7-1) in an 8:05 p.m. tip at Ferrell Center, are coming off the worst loss of coach Dave Bliss' 28-year career -- Saturday's 91-42 shellacking at Oklahoma.
"I wish that hadn't happened," KU coach Roy Williams said Monday. "Those kids will listen to Dave even better now. I'd rather they not pay attention to what he says."
Fourth-year Baylor coach Bliss -- he's also worked at Oklahoma, Southern Methodist and New Mexico -- said the 49-point bludgeoning was "a very difficult thing to go through, but we had a good practice yesterday and don't have any time to look back.
"Obviously one of the great things about basketball is you do not have to wait a long time between games," he said. "It will be good to get back out there quickly. I might have picked a different opponent than Kansas."
BU has faced a steady stream of top 25 teams in league play.
The Bears opened with losses to ranked teams Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. BU then fell to unranked Iowa State and beat unranked Texas A&M; before Saturday's setback at OU.
"I think there'd be a lot of teams in our league 1-7 playing that schedule," said Bliss, whose Bears must travel to No. 13 Oklahoma State on Saturday. "With the exception of our last game, we've been competitive in every game we've played."
He believes his program -- which reached the NIT two years ago after shocking Kansas 85-77 in Waco -- is on the right track.
"We start four sophomores. I choose to think the glass is half full," Bliss said.
Three of the sophs -- Lawrence Roberts, John Lucas and Kenny Taylor -- hail from the Houston area.
Roberts, a 6-foot-9, 230-pounder, averages a team-leading 14.8 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
|When: 8:05 tonight.Where: Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas.Television: Channels 13, 38.Records: Kansas 17-5, 7-1 Big 12; Baylor 10-9, 1-7.|
"He can score inside and step out past the three-point line," Williams said. "When you can continue to put up numbers when you are the focus of the other team's defense, you should feel doggone good about what you are doing."
Roberts has hit 42.4 percent of his shots -- nine of 32 three-point attempts -- for the team that hoists by far the most threes of any team in the Big 12. BU averages nine threes made per game and 25.6 attempts.
"When we shoot well to protect him, he usually does well," Bliss said of Roberts. "When we don't shoot well from the outside, like at OU, they can do things inside to stop him."
Roberts missed nine of 12 shots and scored nine points Saturday on a day the Bears made just four of 17 threes.
Shooting guard Kenny Taylor (12.2 ppg), who leads the Big 12 in threes made (63) and attempted (156), missed four of five treys Saturday. Point guard John Lucas (14.4 ppg), who has made 33 of 94 threes, made two of five beyond the arc at OU.
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Lucas has 84 assists against 43 turnovers. He'll be matched against KU sophomore point Aaron Miles, who has 160 assists to 76 turnovers.
"I've not seen any type of slide in any of their sophomores," Bliss said, surprised to learn KU fans have been critical of Miles his soph season.
"Aaron's role sometimes puts him in a position where the Jayhawk fans throw stones at him only because they don't have anything else to throw. Sometimes they pick on things that wouldn't seem as bad in other programs as they think they are in their program."
KU will return home to meet Iowa State at noon Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.