Protect home court and move on to the next one.
It was far from what we as fans wanted, but Iowa State outlasted a solid Texas Tech team on Wednesday night to hold on for a 76-69 win. The victory put the Cyclones at 1-1 in Big 12 play and gave Steve Prohm his first conference win as Iowa State's coach.
Next up comes Scott Drew and Baylor. The Bears enter Saturday's game at 11-3 and just on the on the outside of the top 25. Last year, Baylor was the only Big 12 team to sweep Iowa State and the Cyclones' last win over the Bears came in the 2014 Big 12 championship game.
About the Bears
Scott Drew is in his 13th year in Waco and by now, we all know what you're going to get from the Bears. An aggressive zone featuring great length and athleticism continues to be a Baylor hallmark and once again, the Bears are led by a stellar front line.
Seniors Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince create a formidable 1-2 punch that's awfully difficult to contain. Gathers is a double-double machine and is one of the more physically imposing players in the country. Prince has a little more finesse in his game and is leading Baylor with 15.5 points per game.
The explosive Johnathan Motley provides big minutes off the bench and Trey Maston rounds out the post rotation.
Trying to advance a long line of quality lead guards, Lester Medford has taken over top playmaker duties for Baylor. Medford isn't a dynamic scorer, but is second in the Big 12 with 6.6 assists per game (trailing Monte Morris). Sophomore Al Freeman is the big surprise in the back court, however, and is scoring 13.2 points per game while shooting 44.6% from deep.
Ishmail Wainright rounds out the starting 5 and King McClure and Jake Lindsey come off the bench, though each see limited time.
Baylor has been very good offensively this year (ranked 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency) and with their length and athleticism, the big concern is keeping the Bears off the offensive glass. According to kenpom.com, the Bears have the 4th best offensive rebounding rate nationally. Scott Drew teams have always shot the ball well from deep and this year is no different as the Bears are knocking down just a shade under 37% of their outside looks.
Defensively, the Baylor zone can be attacked and beaten and as we've seen in years past, it effectively is built to simply slow the opponent's offense. Surprisingly, Baylor isn't blocking as many shots this season and from an efficiency stand point, the Bears check in at 78th in the country.
So Who Wins?
Baylor has played three road games. Baylor has lost three road games. Not only that, but the Bears have been flat out embarrassed in their last two road contests, losing by 19 at Texas A&M and falling by 28 at Kansas.
Now, up until a season ago, it was pretty much a certainty that the Bears stood no chance in Ames. 12 times Baylor had laced 'em up inside Hilton Coliseum and 12 times, they'd left on the wrong side of the win-loss column. And then last year happened.
Trailing by 7 points with just over 7 minutes to play, Baylor went freaking nuts from outside. The Bears knocked down 5 straight 3s on 5 straight possessions in less than 3 minutes to turn a 7-point deficit into a 6-point lead. A stunned Iowa State was unable to recover and the Cyclones fell at home, 77-70. The loss ended a 21-game home winning streak for the Cyclones and effectively ended Iowa State's hopes for a Big 12 regular season championship.
Will last year's home loss provide any extra motivation on Saturday afternoon? Who knows, but it shouldn't matter as Iowa State simply has to put together more complete performances going forward. Wednesday's win over Texas Tech might look better as the season wears on and there were certainly stretches of great basketball, but for large stretches, it looked like a flawed team that was getting by on talent alone.
To state the obvious, that can't happen against Baylor. The Bears are an NCAA Tournament-caliber team and have enough talent to beat anyone.
Baylor's length and zone defense are always going to create challenges and that is why ball movement and being patient enough to work for good shots are key. To be blunt, if Abdel Nader doesn't get it together, he absolutely can't be on the floor for Iowa State on Saturday. Nader has been atrocious offensively and is killing Iowa State's offensive rhythm. He has an offensive rating of 98.3, which is the 7th-worst mark among all Big 12 starters. He's a deplorable 3-point shooter and his decision making has been disgraceful as of late.
That being said, Nader is an important part of this team and has to produce in order for Iowa State to be successful. His touches and minutes should absolutely be reduced, but given the lack of options at his disposal, Steve Prohm is going to have to take the good with the bad and just hope for much less of the bad.
As long as Georges Niang and Monte Morris are on the floor though, they can more than offset for Nader's poor play and with those two operating at full capacity, Iowa State is always a safe bet, especially at home.
Iowa State 78 - Baylor 73
Tip: 2 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Baylor SB Nation Site: Our Daily Bears