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Baylor and Iowa State Let the Offense Flow Freely

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Iowa State and Baylor got whatever they wanted all night.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

In their first two match ups, Scott Drew has decisively outwitted Steve Prohm. In Ames, Drew broke the factory packaging on the triangle-and-two in the closing minutes to shut down Georges Niang. Last night, Drew toggled between zone and man defense at what seemed like every stoppage, while on offense he made little effort to disguise his strategy: post up down low. For his part, Prohm handled Drew's defensive adjustments well. Whenever Baylor played man defense, Prohm ran plays to isolate Niang on the wing, where the versatile senior dominated all four of the different defenders assigned to him. Defensively, however, Iowa State failed to find a way to defend Johnathan Motley and Terry Maston inside. Those two combined for 42 points on 26 shots in only 52 minutes.

It wasn't as if this was something unexpected, either. In the last game, Motley and Maston lit Iowa State up for 40 points inside on 25 attempts in 62 minutes. Not only, then, did Prohm allow those two to repeat their performance, but he let them exceed their previous performance in 10 fewer minutes of play. Rico Gathers, who only tallied 15 minutes in Ames, was entirely absent last night due to sickness, so it's not as though ISU should have expected Baylor's game plan to be centered around the senior forward.

Perhaps with more time in between games, Prohm would have had more time to review tape and implement some of the tactics Tubby Smith and Texas Tech employed to shut down Baylor's inside game, which I outlined here. The Raiders forced Baylor's bigs to become passers by bringing a double team on every post touch. Iowa State, however, seemed content to allow their center to defend one-on-one in the post. Motley often had three, four, and sometimes five seconds to survey the floor, dribble a couple of times, and pick his spots without having to worry about a pesky guard digging down to strip the ball. Permitting Motley so much freedom inside was foolhardy, especially given Jameel McKay's weakness as a post defender and Deonte Burton's lack of height at only 6-4.

To Baylor's credit, it also made adjustments based on what Tech had done on Saturday. Drew ran several more plays in this game that had one big screen for the other, and once the ball was in hand, it went up quickly, before the defense could react. Maston was particularly good at this. He got himself in trouble Saturday by holding bringing the ball low. Yesterday, he kept the ball high and put it up quickly and decisively.

Baylor's other offensive focus was to break ISU's zone down with the dribble drive when the pass into the post wasn't clean. Lester Medford, Al Freeman, King McClure, and Ish Wainright were relentless all game with the drive and kick. Medford would dribble to the free throw line off a screen, pass out to Wainright, who would attack a closing defender, kick out to Medford who had popped back to the three point line with the option to take the shot himself or to pass to another wide open shooter.

The fluidity with which the Bears ran these sequences was beautiful. Freeman and McClure were particularly intent on attacking the rim in this game. On plays where they would normally run off a double screen for a corner three look, the two shooting guards instead the ball on the deck. Their aggressiveness drew help defenders, so that even when they couldn't finish, a teammate could crash the glass freely and get the rebound or a dump-off pass.

A big factor in Baylor being able to execute both aspects of the offense is the lack of physicality Iowa State brings. This defensive tentativeness is something of a necessity for the Cyclones, who on good nights have 6 reliable players. Last night, they had only 5. ISU had 0 bench points last night. Baylor, by contrast, had 21. ISU simply cannot risk stacking up off-ball fouls trying to bump opponents and disrupt set plays. Against a team like Baylor, that means death by a thousand screens.

To Iowa State's credit, Niang and Abdel Nader where unstoppable. Niang was unguardable no matter what or who Drew threw at him, and Nader has made a skill out of being forgotten on the perimeter. Every time Drew went to man, Niang isolated at 18 feet with the option to shoot, pass, or dribble and made a good decision almost every time. The few times that the Bears were successful at denying Niang the ball (as Freeman did in a critical moment late in the 2nd half) were the moments that decided the game.

This win was essential to Baylor's post-season aspirations. Unless the Bears absolutely bomb in their final five games, I think this win made them a near-lock for the Tournament. A win in Austin on Saturday would made that a guarantee.