I sat at my laptop tonight, watching Iowa State lose yet another tough game in conference play, and couldn't bring myself to start writing the game recap. Usually I begin writing at halftime and continue as the second half plays out. For some reason, it seemed like the universe was telling me to hold off on writing until after the game tonight.
Now, I know why.
As I watched the Cyclones battle against Baylor and drop their fourth consecutive game to the Bears, I could feel the frustration mounting. Not only in myself, but across all of Cyclone Nation. How many times do we have to watch our team play, only to see them fall just short in the end?
This season had the potential to be a special one. Returning tons of experience and talent, this group of players possessed everything they needed to topple Kansas from their throne at the top of the regular season conference standings. Then injuries and growing pains happened. It's been 11 seasons in a row, and unfortunately, now it looks like the Jayhawks will add yet another year to their streak. To add insult to injury, the Iowa State team we expected to contend for the conference crown is stumbling, fumbling, and crawling their way through Big 12 play.
Tonight's 100-91 loss had a little bit of everything. Georges Niang scored 24 points and passed Fred Hoiberg on the all-time scoring list, moving himself into sole possession of 3rd place. He also eclipsed the 2,000 point mark, becoming just the third player in school history to do so. That certainly deserves to be celebrated, but the loss puts a damper on Niang's historic night.
Here is Georges Niang passing 2,000 career points! Congrats, Georges! https://t.co/eXXve5IOya— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) February 17, 2016
With Niang leading the attack in the first half, ISU was ahead 35-31 with two and a half minutes before halftime, but Baylor went on a 10-0 run to close it out and waltzed into the locker room with a 41-35 lead.
Iowa State battled back to take a one point lead just over five minutes into the second half when Monte Morris drilled a 3-pointer to make it 51-49, prompting a timeout by Baylor's Scott Drew. Both teams battled back and forth from then on, with the largest lead being seven points by Baylor with 9:06 left in the half.
However, ISU would once again re-claim the lead on an Abdel Nader 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining, once again causing Scott Drew to call for a timeout. Drew's strategy worked, as Baylor scored the next six points to take a 78-73 lead with about three minutes left.
Down the stretch, Nader scored six key points and Morris added a jumper as the Bears' Johnathan Motley hit three free throws to tie the game up and send it to overtime. The final play of regulation was Morris shooting a contested jumper and having it clang off the rim, then making a nifty touch-shot from the free throw line after securing the rebound. The problem was, it came a split second after the buzzer had sounded.
In overtime, the turning point came after Baylor's Lester Medford hit a 3-pointer to put the Bears in front 87-84. Deonte Burton shot a poor fadeaway 3-pointer from the right corner that fell way short of the rim. Then, to make matters worse, Burton flew down the floor and fouled Motley on a made dunk. Motley would end up missing the free throw, but that series of events set the tone for the rest of the period.
Two Niang free throws were answered by a Motley jumper, then Nader hit a long ball to cut the lead to two points, but then Ishmail Wainright nailed a dagger triple with just over a minute left to give Baylor a five point lead, 94-89. From there on out, it was the classic "foul to stay in the game" strategy for the Cyclones, and BU made their foul shots.
Nader ended up being the leading scorer on the night for ISU, dropping 26 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Iowa State also got 20 point efforts out of Niang (24) and Morris (20). Morris actually had a double-double with 11 assists to go along with his points, but tied a career-high in turnovers with four on the night, all of which came in the first half.
The immediate vibe that came from Cyclone fans tonight after the loss felt oddly similar to the way losing to UAB did last year in the NCAA Tournament. The negativity coming from some people is incredible to me. I understand that things aren't going the way that many of us hoped for this season with Iowa State, but as we posted on Twitter earlier:
For real though, get to the tournament and get hot. Then this season becomes great regardless of what happens in the regular season.— WRNL (@WideRtNattyLt) February 17, 2016
Some people legitimately need to log off Twitter tonight. Many of those people are mentioning us. Sleep on it before freaking out.— WRNL (@WideRtNattyLt) February 17, 2016
This isn't the end of the world, so don't treat it like it is. It's okay to be critical, and it's okay to feel frustrated, but don't act like idiots because we lost a game in overtime to a ranked team on the road. Even with the compounded losses the team has experienced recently, things are never truly as bad as they seem.
Iowa State's next game is against TCU on Saturday in Hilton Coliseum. The game will be on ESPNU and tips at 6:30 p.m. CST.