Bears Fall Just Short in Big 12 Title Game

Baylor basketball's magical run fell just short against a hungry Iowa State team playing in front of a home crowd.

Throughout the entire Big 12 Championship, Baylor trailed for only about seven minutes of their 160 minutes of game time. It was just the wrong seven minutes.

Even in the finale, Baylor led for the first 33:11 of the game before Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim nailed a three to give Iowa State their first lead of the game.

Call it Hilton Magic; it just wasn't to be. But despite the loss, Baylor basketball beat the odds.

Only a few short weeks ago, Baylor sat at 2-8 in conference, and fans were well on their way to buying tickets to the CBI or talking about whether we could repeat in the NIT. After the Big 12 Championship, not only is Baylor a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but they appear to be one of the most dangerous teams in the field.

Baylor opened the game with a dominant defensive effort, but their offense could not capitalize. Despite forcing Iowa State to miss their first 13 shots, Baylor's lead never grew to more than 10.

After Naz Long nailed a three for Iowa State's first field goal, the Cyclone offense took over. Iowa State shot 65.7 percent from that point on behind 17 points from DeAndre Kane and four three-pointers from Naz Long. Kane, George Niang and Melvin Ejim combined for 28 points in the second half, where Iowa State shot 69.6 percent.

Iowa State ended the game on an 18-7 run, and made their final six field goals, including multiple three-pointers from Long and Ejim.

Iowa State successfully ran a double-team inside to get the ball out of the hands of the posts. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin and senior power forward Cory Jefferson combined to shoot 6-for-24 from the field and 0-for-6 from three. Senior guard Brady Heslip punished them for it in the first half, but the ball movement suffered in the second.

No team had ever won the Big 12 Championship by winning four games in four days, and we started to see why at the end. Baylor's starters combined to play 636 total minutes over the past four nights. With the first round bye, Iowa State's starters played under 500. When things got close, Iowa State had just a little bit more energy and intensity, which can likely be attributed to fatigue.

Austin was named to the 2014 Philips 66 Big 12 All-Championship team after averaging 14.0 points and 5.3 rebounds on 48.1 percent from the field and compiling a tournament-record 18 blocks over four games.

Jefferson grabbed 43 rebounds over the tournament, breaking Drew Gooden's record of 40 in 2002. Heslip added 14.0 points per game on 14 three-pointers and 53.8 percent from long range.

Junior forward Royce O'Neale quietly had an excellent tournament. He averaged 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds while shooting 62.5 percent from three. Throughout the tournament, he received critical acclaim for his contributions in every facet of the game.

Baylor will look to be a part of Selection Sunday, where official NCAA Tournament spots will be announced. ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has the Bears seeded seventh and taking on St. Joseph's in the first round in Raleigh, N.C.


Bears Illustrated Top Stories