The game was over when Chip Gaines hit a half court shot at shoot around before tip-off.
Conversely, the game was over when Iowa State coach Steve Prohm was called for a technical foul after Vital drew a trollish charge on Solomon Young. From that point, Baylor, already up 7 on the road, opened the floodgates with a 15-3 run to put the game out of range.
After several minutes of garbage time, Baylor (18-1, 7-0) finished off Iowa State (9-11, 2-5) 67-53.
Freddie Gillespie registered another masterful game. He finished with 12 points on 5-6 shooting, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 bloody face, and a suplex move to force a jump ball. He completely eliminated ISU’s inside scoring and stymied Tyrese Haliburton (17 pt, 8 rebs, 4-11 FG, 5 TO) on several switches. Gillespie is quickly transitioning from unsung linchpin to a standout big.
His front court teammate Mark Vital (8 pts, 10 reb, 7 asts) finished the game with a game best +15 plus/minus rating, earned by his timely offensive boards (he had 5) and beautiful drop-off passes to Gillespie in 4-on-3 situations.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair for the first 10 minutes of play. Following that technical foul on Prohm, Baylor used the screen game to open up driving lanes for easy layups and dishes to cutters. Iowa State’s bigs had too much to pay attention to, with Gillespie lurking in the dunker spot, Vital rolling toward the basket, and a rotating cast of Jared Butler (8 pts, 0-5 3pt), MaCio Teague (15 points, 4 reb), Davion Mitchell (10 pts, 5 reb, 4 stl, 1 blk), and Devonte Bandoo (12 pt, 3 reb). Baylor simply had too many ways of attack for Iowa State to hold up.
Mitchell’s defense showed up in a big way. In addition to a spectacular block and some timely steals, he shut down Haliburton after the lottery pick looked to be on his way to a big night. Haliburton could have his way when guarded by nearly anyone else, particularly Bandoo and Matt Mayer (0 pts, 0-2 FG). Mitchell, however, didn’t give him anything, forcing his drives to end in contested floaters.
Rasir Bolton’s (19 pts, 4-8 3pt, 5 TO) outside shot kept ISU within reach at halftime. He went 4-5 from three, while his teammate’s went 0-5. Overall, the Cyclones shot a poor 36% from the floor for .813 points per possession, largely the result of Baylor’s defense. The Bears forced ISU into a number of long twos and contested floaters, and Gillespie and Mitchell combined for 4 blocks. That included Mitchell’s gravity-defying chase down block in which he mildly impersonated a helicopter.
Gillespie was 4-5 with 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in the first half. The man loves to play Iowa State’s skinny, squishy centers. His short jumper was on target, and his energy on the boards and defensive end dominated the game. His emergence should only continue to make waves in college basketball as the Bears get deeper into conference play. He simply zeroes out his assignment. He’s not flashy, but he’s a killer.
Baylor’s only real bugaboo in the first half was turnovers. Butler started the game with a pair of sloppy ones, and Iowa State had a number of transition opportunities following poor perimeter passing from the Bears. Gillespie and Mitchell’s devoted transition defense prevented several of those opportunities from becoming points.
Scott Drew’s squad now reliably has one big run in them every game. If the game is close before the guards have really gotten their scoring going, it feels inevitable that Baylor will eventually pull away. The grittiness of Gillespie and Vital seems to strangle opponents until the grace and poise of the guards puts games away.
The Bears, increasing their school best start to league play, have played 5 of their last 7 games on the road. They will face TCU (13-7, 4-3) in Waco this Saturday (and TCU just lost to Texas so buckle up for a fun time) before hitting the road again Monday against Kansas State (9-11, 2-5). Baylor won’t have back-to-back home games until it hosts both sunshine teams late in February.