With the Baylor Bears trailing for just the second time in the game with under 15 seconds to go, the Bears put the ball in the hands of their senior point guard. With a sly cross over move, and maybe a gentle nudge to a back-pedaling defender, Kenny Chery nailed a mid-range jumper from his favorite spot on the court to put the Bears up 74-73 with under 5 seconds to go. After a Georges Niang jumper bounced off the rim as time expired, the Bears secured their biggest win of the season over the 11th ranked Iowa State Cyclones.
"I think that's the Big 12. Our last three games have come down to the last minute, one went to overtime and two were decided in the last few seconds. That's what makes the league so good. There is no off night. There is no night when you can play bad and get away with a win," said Coach Scott Drew after the game.
The game started off with the Bears showing the energy that they have lacked the past few games, and hitting pretty much every shot they took. After hitting just 1 of 12 3-point shots against TCU, the Bears started hot against Iowa State. A 16-1 spurt, behind 4-4 shooting from behind the arc put the Bears in command of the game early. Made 3-pointers by Kenny Chery, two by Royce O'Neale, and a final one by Lester Medford put the "whited-Out" Baylor crowd into a frenzy. The lead would balloon to as many as 17 points, after a Taurean Prince 3 put the Bears up 22-5
However, with 13 minutes left in the half, a little scuffle underneath the Bears basket between Taurean Prince and Dustin Hogue resulted in a video review that delayed the game for over 5 minutes. The delay allowed the Cyclones to catch their breath and compose themselves after the haymaker the Bears threw to start the game. A 22-6 run got the Cyclones back into the game and cut the lead to two points with just over 6 minutes to go.
The Bears though would not be denied. Behind Rico Gathers and his merry gang of offensive rebounders, and a few timely 3-point shots, the Bears extended the lead back to 12 points by the time halftime rolled around. The Bears offense was on a roll, shooting 47.2% from the field and making as many field goals in the first half (17) as they did in the entire game against TCU (17).
The second half though, would bring back the poor shooting that the Bears have seen the past few games. In the 8 halves of basketball the Bears have played in Big 12 play, only two of them have resulted in over 40% shooting in an entire half (first halves against Oklahoma and Iowa State). The Bears have actually had 1 more half of shooting under 30% in Big 12 play this year (3) than they have of over 40% shooting.
With the Bears missing shots, the Cyclones got hot and started to chip away at the Bears lead around the 8 minute mark of the game. A "banked-in" 3-point shot by Georges Niang cut the lead to 5 points with 6:18 left in the game, but it was Naz Long who hit all five of his 3-point shots, with four coming in the second half, that pushed the Cyclones back into the game.
The Cyclones tied it on a Naz Long 3-pointer with 2:26 left, and then took the lead on their next possession courtesy of a soft jumper from Georges Niang with just under 2-minutes to go. The Bears answered with a big corner 3-pointer from Lester Medford and then a jumper by Jonathan Motley in the paint. However a corner 3-pointer setup by great passing and an excellent pump fake gave transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones a wide open look that gave the Cyclones the lead with just 13 seconds left.
After that, it was the Kenny Chery show, where he calmly nailed a jumper to put the Bears up and give them their biggest win of the season. "That's exactly what we were looking for. That was the play coach wanted us to execute. It worked pretty well," said the senior point guard after the game. Chery had missed his previous 12 shots from the field before that shot and finished 4-16 from the field.Player of the Game
Royce O'Neale (15 points, 3 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal)
It is hard to choose against Kenny Chery (13 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) or even Rico Gathers who threw up his customary dominant double-double (14 points, 15 rebounds), but I am going with the other senior leader for the Bears. Royce had been struggling with confidence in Big 12 play, and he had only made 2 of his first 18 shots in Big 12 play and had just not been himself so far in 2015. However, O'Neale came out hot this game, hitting his first two looks from deep and finishing an effecient 6-8 from the field and making 3 of his 5 three-pointers. This is the Royce O'Neale the Bears need to beat the best Big 12 teams. They need him hitting open shots, getting tough rebounds in traffic as he comes from nowhere to snag a rebound with 3 other players wondering where the heck did he come from. O'Neale played that way against Iowa State, for the first time in Big 12 play and was a huge part of the Bears victory.