Photo Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
No. 10 Baylor will look to avoid being swept by Iowa State when the two schools meet Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City.
Baylor (22-9, 11-7) took a hit in terms of its bid to gain a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament with its loss to Iowa State last Saturday. The fifth-seeded Cyclones (18-12, 9-9 Big 12) recorded two 15-point victories over the fourth-seeded Bears in the regular season. The latter was a 73-58 win in Saturday’s regular-season finale that ended Iowa State’s nine-game losing streak in Waco, Texas, dating to Feb. 20, 2013.
The Bears know they have plenty of work to do this week after losing three of their final five regular-season games. But that double-digit home loss to the Cyclones was easily the most damaging result.
“It’s disappointing,” said Baylor guard LJ Cryer, “but we’ve got to move forward and hopefully we can make some noise in the (Big 12) tournament and end it off the right way there.”
Iowa State’s defensive tactics befuddled the Bears, who shot just 35.8% from the field while matching their season low for points. The Cyclones also held a 36-24 rebounding advantage and a 23-13 edge in points off turnovers.
“We didn’t do a good enough job running our offense and fighting to get our offense lower and executing,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “When we did get good looks, and we didn’t have enough of them, we didn’t make them. … The things that have made us a good team, we didn’t do.”
The victory was crucial for Iowa State. The Cyclones snapped a four-game slide and won for just the third time in 11 games.
Iowa State never allowed the Bears to make a second-half charge as it stretched its lead to 18 with 5:51 left and cruised to the finish.
“We knew they were going to go through a little momentum swing,” Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur said. “They’re a good team, a really good team. We just stuck to who we were.”
The first contest was similar in that the host Cyclones limited Baylor to 37.7% shooting in a 77-62 win on Dec. 31. Kalscheur poured in a game-high 23 points.
Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger was glad to see his team get back on track just days after dismissing third-leading scorer Caleb Grill due to “a failure to meet the program’s expectations.”
Otzelberger is looking forward to the power-packed Big 12 tournament in a season in which at least six members of the 10-team league will be part of the NCAA Tournament and possibly seven or eight.
“I think our league, you could take everybody,” Otzelberger said. “I know that’s not what the metrics say and I know that’s not where things stand right now, but we’ve been on the court with the nine other teams and we know what they can be on their best night. …
“What I can tell you is this is the best league in the country. It’s an honor to coach in it, it’s an honor for our young men to play in it and we’re excited to go embrace this tournament.”
Jaren Holmes (13.2 points per game) leads Iowa State in scoring and Kalscheur (12.7) is second. Holmes had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Saturday’s win over the Bears.
Adam Flagler scored 20 points in both outings against the Cyclones and is Baylor’s second-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game. Keyonte George leads at 16 per game and Cryer contributes 14.6.
The winner will face one of three possible opponents in the semifinals — top-seeded Kansas, eighth-seeded West Virginia or ninth-seeded Texas Tech.
–Field Level Media contributed to this article