On March 15, 2014, Iowa State capped a remarkable 3-day run through the Big 12 Tournament with a 74-65 win over Baylor in the championship game. Shaking off a miserable start, the Cyclones were dominant in the second half en route to earning the victory and the win marked the 5th triumph in 6 tries over the Bears.
Since that time however, Baylor is a perfect 3-0 against the Cyclones, which includes consecutive wins in Ames. Both the Bears and Iowa State come into the contest at 7-5 and two games back in the conference standings and Tuesday night's game is critical to remain in the league championship picture.
In order to solve the Baylor hex, Iowa State is going to have to find a way to finish out a full 40 minutes. Because we're gluttons for punishment, let's relive each of the last three losses to Baylor:
- January 15, 2015 @ Baylor - Iowa State got off to a miserable start, trailing Baylor 16-1 within the first 3 minutes of the game and the Bears stretched that lead to 17, up 28-11 with about 12 minutes left in the first half. The Cyclones managed to cut that lead to 34-32, however, but faltered in the closing minutes of the half, allowing Baylor to go on a 12-2 run and build a 12-point half time lead. Iowa State chipped away at that lead throughout the second half and took their first lead of the game at 68-67 with 1:55 remaining. After trading buckets, Iowa State took possession with 26 seconds to play and Bryce Dejean-Jones drained a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones a 73-72 lead. On the other end, Kenny Chery responded by sinking a jumper (where he totally pushed off) to put Baylor back in front and Georges Niang missed a runner at the buzzer as the Bears prevailed.
- February 25, 2015 in Ames - At 10-4 in conference play, Iowa State had a major opportunity to pull even with Kansas in the Big 12 standings and all they had to do was protect home court. The two teams went back and forth throughout the first half and Baylor went into the break with a 40-37 lead. With just under 8 minutes to play, Iowa State appeared to take control of the game and led 64-57. And then Baylor went effing nuts. The Bears drained 5 treys over the next 5 possessions and suddenly, Iowa State found themselves in a 72-66 hole. The Cyclones simply couldn't regain their composure and lost 79-70 as Baylor ended the game on a 22-6 run, becoming the first team other than Kansas to win in Hilton Coliseum since 2011.
- January 9, 2016 in Ames - Iowa State was awful on the defensive end of the floor, surrendering 60 second half points as Baylor erased a 12-point deficit in the second stanza to steal a third straight in the series. The pivotal stretch came over a less than two-minute span between the 5:07 and 3:14 mark as Baylor went on a 10-0 run to build an 80-73 lead. Just as they were a year earlier, Iowa State was stunned and was unable to get back into the game, losing 94-89.
So Who Wins?
As I was leaving Hilton Coliseum on Saturday night, I pulled out my phone to check some scores and I immediately was confused when I saw, Texas Tech 84 - Baylor 66. Surely that had to be a misprint, right? No way did the Red Raiders win by 18 in Waco.
Sure enough, it was not an error and Tech did in fact destroy Baylor in the second half in what is easily the most surprising result of the entire Big 12 schedule thus far.
So what Baylor team will Iowa State see on Tuesday night? Will the Bears be pissed off by Saturday's performance and out to make a statement, or does Iowa State get the luxury of facing a demoralized unit going through a slump? Baylor certainly has not played well as of late, losing 3 of their last 4 while also having lost 3 straight conference home games (Oklahoma, Texas & Texas Tech).
In their first match up, Iowa State was dominated in the paint, giving up a combined 40 points to Jonathan Motley and Terry Maston, 27 of which were scored by Motley, who knocked down 13 of his 15 field goal attempts. Motley also grabbed 13 rebounds.
Taurean Prince (18 points) and Lester Medford (16 points) also managed to get into double figures, but you can live with that type of output from that duo. What you can't live with is Motley being unstoppable inside.
The Bears rank 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency (per kenpom.com) while Iowa State ranks 4th in the same category. Surprisingly, the Cyclones are actually the much better defensive unit according to the advanced numbers and ranking just 150th in adjusted defensive efficiency, Baylor could be in trouble on Tuesday night.
There's always a couple things you can count on from a Scott Drew coached team (aside from excessive timeouts); zone defense, above-average outside shooting and a mastery of the boards. As a team, the Bears are shooting 37.6% from deep and have 5 guys shooting 35% or better from 3-point range. On the offensive glass, Baylor is 4th in the country in offensive rebounding rate.
Baylor is what they are and for the most part, Steve Prohm and crew should have a healthy idea of what they're going to see. The Bears are going to do their thing, but this is the type of game this Iowa State team was built to win and if Jameel McKay is healthy, both physically and mentally, they probably should be able to win. Are we really ready to make that leap, though? McKay did some great things on Saturday night and played his ass off, but has he truly turned a corner?
The Cyclones don't have to control the glass to beat Baylor, but they have to be competitive and they simply can't let Rico Gathers, Prince and Motley dominate the paint. Just as important is the ability to manufacture points and stops down the stretch, which is something that Iowa State hasn't done against Baylor since that conference championship game in 2014.
My heads says the smart money might be on Baylor here, but my heart wants this to be a turning point win for Iowa State in the worst way.
Hell, give me the Cyclones.
Iowa State 84 - Baylor 78
Tip: 8 PM CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Baylor SB Nation Site: Our Daily Bears