There's no sugar-coating it; the Iowa State men's basketball team just laid an egg. The Cyclones came to Waco with a second place finish in the Big 12 still in play, but played their worst game in a month, dropping an endlessly frustrating 74-61 contest to Baylor.
Before we get to Iowa State's performance, you have to give credit to Baylor. The Bears' zone defense and methodical pace caused fits for an Iowa State team that simply didn't have the answers on Tuesday night. In the process, Baylor likely punched their NCAA tournament ticket and bought themselves some breathing room moving forward.
As for the Cyclones, it was just a bizarre night. Offensively, Fred Hoiberg's team never really looked comfortable and struggled to find any type of consistent rhythm as they failed to score at least 70 points for the first time all season. If it weren't for eight first half three-pointers, Iowa State might have been out of this game altogether, but hot shooting was the one thing the Cyclones were able to cling to in the opening 20 minutes. Unfortunately, it didn't last as Iowa State went from hitting 8-13 in the first half to only 4-16 in the second half.
For the second straight game, Georges Niang struggled mightily, shooting just 2-11 from the field and scoring only 4 points. He is now 5-25 in his last two games. Niang wasn't the only Cyclone to endure a frustrating night, however, as Melvin Ejim played arguably the worst half of his career in the first half. Both Ejim and Niang were scoreless at the break and while Ejim managed to grab 9 rebounds, he forced the action offensively, shooting 3-14 from the floor and scoring only 6 points. The combined stats for these two: 5-25 from the floor, 0-9 from outside, 4 assists, 7 turnovers, 7 fouls and 10 points.
On the glass half full side of things, DeAndre Kane turned in a stellar effort, scoring 20 points and nailing 5-9 from behind the arc. Dustin Hogue was another guy that gave the Cyclones a chance to win, scoring 12 points and grabbing 5 rebounds while also flying around the paint in typical Dustin Hogue fashion. Naz Long came off the bench and hit 3-6 from deep en route to scoring 9 points and dishing out 4 assists.
- At the risk of turning this into an officiating bash-fest, it was a little puzzling to see that Iowa State only shot two free throws for the game while Baylor attempted 17. Now, a big part of that stems from the fact that Iowa State shot 29 three-pointers and rarely attacked inside, but it does raise an eyebrow.
- I thought Daniel Edozie gave Iowa State nice minutes after Georges Niang got into foul trouble in the first half. Fred Hoiberg has opted to go with a short bench for most of the year, but I often suspected that the talent pool was deeper than The Mayor was leading on and Edozie proved that tonight. Should Niang or Ejim get into foul trouble come the NCAA tournament, Edozie looks more than qualified to buy a few minutes for the Cyclones in that type of spot.
- Iowa State dished out their usual 18 assists, but were still downright awful when it came to taking care of the ball. To say that Baylor forced 14 Cyclone turnovers just wouldn't be honest. The fact of the matter is Iowa State was sloppy with the ball. Have we seen passing that bad out of this team this year? Whether Iowa State was trying to do too much or simply weren't prepared for the zone and Baylor's length is unknown, but what we do know is that the offensive execution suffered.
- As disappointing as this loss was, as a college basketball fan, I love to see guys go out with a win on senior night. Cory Jefferson and Bradly Heslip led the Bears in their final game in the Ferrell Center. Jefferson had 21 points and 7 rebounds and Heslip shook off a quiet first half, erupting with 5 treys in the second half while scoring 18 points for the game. Hopefully Iowa State seniors, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, can go out on top in similar fashion on Saturday afternoon.
- This loss dropped Iowa State into a tie for 4th place with Kansas State at 10-7 in league play. At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the Cyclones will be able to climb into the top three in the conference, meaning that Iowa State will probably face off against the Wildcats a week from Thursday at the Big 12 tournament. Should it play out that way and if Iowa State is fortunate enough to win that Thursday game, a semi-final date with league champion, Kansas, would await the Cyclones.