Iowa State was always believed to be Kansas’ biggest challenger this season, and for some reason it just didn’t come together for them. Today, everything was clicking for the Cyclones.
The Baylor Bears were downed 83-66 by the Iowa State Cyclones, sending Baylor home in the quarterfinals of the Big XII Tournament. Both teams were considered locks for the NCAA Tournament prior to this game. Baylor better hope that is the case after a troubling showing in Kansas City.
Sometimes, teams just go off on you. Sometimes, your defense just wasn’t enough. This game was a little bit of both. Baylor’s help defense and weak side defense were spotty most of the game. Mark Vital (10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Freddie Gillespie (2 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) were the only plus defenders today challenging drives and defending the pick-and-roll. The guards couldn’t contain Lindell Wigginton (16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) or Nick Weiler-Babbs (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) off the dribble, collapsing the defense and putting guys like King McClure (4 points, 3 rebounds) and Mario Kegler (16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 5-14 FG) in tough positions. Those two were caught ball watching repeatedly by back cuts and and corner threes.
Even when Baylor did play solid defense, the Cyclones were smoking hot. You have to hit tough shots to go 13-25 from three. Tyrese Haliburton (13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) knocked down 3-4 from deep (including one from 30+ feet), and Talen Horton-Tucker (21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks), a career 31% three-point shooter, went 5-9. Marial Shayok (18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists), too, hit some tough fade-aways with a hand in his face.
On offense, Baylor couldn’t get anything going. Iowa State’s pressure on defense disrupted Baylor’s ball handlers, who could never get quite comfortable. Makai Mason (14 points, 5 assists, 4 turnovers) began the game with 3 threes but cooled down, and Jared Butler (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 0-4 3PT) never quite found space to shine.
The Bears began the game 4-6 from deep. It looked like this game was going to be a track meet. Then Baylor finished the game 5-19 from three for just 36% overall. When the other team hits 52% of its threes, 5-19 just isn’t enough.
Baylor’s effort was there, but 14 turnovers and 8 steals were too many opportunities for Iowa State to get out and run. ISU had few dazzling passing sequences. They were, however, masters of the hit-ahead and kick-out when Baylor’s defense wasn’t set.
This is Baylor’s chance to rest up for next week, hope their first opponent isn’t to formidable, and top off a surprisingly successful season with a Tournament win.