After Baylor's last two game losing streak, the Bears responded with 4 straight wins. Anytime you win 4 conference games in a row you have to be pretty happy. Throw in that three of the four were on the road and that is a good stretch of basketball.
Of course everyone knows what happened the last two games against Kansas and Missouri. We got beat. Handily, in fact. That just gives the Bears another chance to respond and grow as a team. Well, it will be a much tougher 4 game stretch this time around.
During the first run, the conference record of the four teams was a terrible 17-31, while the four teams coming up on the schedule have a record of 23-25. The Bears start off this stretch against 8-4 Iowa State in Waco on Monday night. The Cyclones are tied with us for 3rd in the Big 12. Let's take a deeper look at the much-improved Cyclones.
Iowa State is led by second year coach, Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg. He is in his 2nd season as the head coach of the Cyclones and has taken an interesting approach to rebuilding his alma mater. The Cyclones roster includes 9 players that have transferred in from other colleges. Of the 8 players in their usual rotation, 6 of them are transfers. Four of their starters are transfers. I don't ever remember seeing a team like this before, but it is working for Iowa State.
The best transfer of the bunch is Royce White. He is their do-everything power forward, point guard, facilitator, rebounder and scorer. More than likely, he will be the newcomer of the year in the Big 12, and 1st Team All-Big 12. He leads the Cyclones in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and turnovers. He is good. REALLY good.
Surrounding White is a cast of shooters. The Cyclones lead the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, making 38.9% of their shots and hitting a league high 107 in conference games (almost 9 per game). They also lead the league in 3-point FG defense as well, holding their opponents to under 30% shooting and only 5.25 made per game.
Chris Allen leads the Big 12 during conference in 3-point % shooting and makes (43.2% and 2.67 per game). However he is not alone as Chris Babb, Scott Christopherson and Tryus McGee are all very capable shooters. They love the corner three off of post play with White. He will get the ball just outside the paint, and is excellent at finding cutters and spot shooters left open. Outside of that, they will get the ball to White and do pick and rolls at the elbow, the top of the key, and well, anywhere really. Everything goes through White in their half court offense.
Defensively, the Cyclones really focus on taking away the perimeter. They are good at taking away 3-point looks and also not allowing dribble penetration. However, they are weak in the interior, with White at 6-8, Melvin Ejim at 6-6, and Anthony Booker at 6-9 being the only forwards for major minutes.
The Cyclones like getting out in transition and are good at it, but don't do it very much. They are even at turnover margin and in the bottom half of the Big 12 in steals and forced turnovers. To get into their transition offense though, they really thrive off of long rebounds from the missed 3-pointers they force. Long shots equal long rebounds, and White is great at getting to those and making excellent outlet passes, or forcing the ball up himself.
5 Keys to the Game:
1. Make shots. Sounds simple, but the Bears have struggled to shoot over the last few games, shooting only 38.43% over their last 4 games. Below is a breakdown of the Bears shooting woes.
The Bears simply need to make shots. Can't win if you don't score, and you can't score if you don't make shots. Simple basketball. Pierre Jackson and Perry Jones II especially need to start making shots.Below are their True Shooting Percentage charts from Statsheet.com.
2. Challenge their 3-point shooters. I think the Bears did a good job of this against Missouri. Out of their 14 (FOURTEEN!!!!) makes, only 2 or 3 were uncontested. They made several from a few feet beyond the line. They just made shots. Odds are, that won't happen again, but the Bears lost to Iowa State last year because they left their shooters open and did not challenge those shots.
3. No easy buckets for White. The Cyclones are the worst FT shooting team in conference. They are shooting just 66% of their free-throws. Royce White shoots just 50% from the charity stripe on the season (78-156). Send him to the line to earn his points there.
4. Second Chance points. The Bears really kept themselves in the Missouri game by getting 2nd chance points. Baylor's size advantage in the post and at the Small Forward position have to lead to extra chances and points on offense. I would love to see us get 12-14 second chance points
5. 15 assists. I think the main reason the offense has struggled is due to bad ball movement and bad player movement without the ball. The last 6 games, the Bears have averaged just 10.67 assists per game. That is down from their season average of 15 and conference average of 14.83. Better ball movement and player movement will lead to more assists and easier scoring chances.
I didn't put this down for the Missouri game, but I thought we would lose by 12. I was thinking around 75-63. I was close. For this game, I think the Bears win. Iowa State is not as good away from home with losses to Drake, Michigan, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma State. Overall, they are just 3-5 away from Ames. Final score: 68-62 Bears win.