Great teams find a way to win, and the Baylor Bears are showing their greatness each week. One of just three undefeated teams entering the night, the Bears shot poorly, turned the ball over too much, and were dealing with an experienced and feisty Iowa State team. Did not matter. Overcoming a 6-point deficit with 5-minutes to go, the Bears protected their home court and improved to 14-0 on the year.
With top ranked Villanova falling on the road to Butler earlier in the night, a Baylor home sweep over Iowa State and Oklahoma State could propel them to the top of the polls. A quick 11-3 lead to start the game, including 3 dunks and a layup, was a continuation of their strong play against Oklahoma to open conference play last week. However, Iowa State would answer with three 3-pointers to tie the game at 14.
It was an early sign of how the game would go. Baylor would dominate inside with paint points and rebounds, while Iowa State would answer with 3-pointers. The Bears would hold the lead for all but 40 seconds of the first half, building that original 8-point lead back up to as many as 7, but the Cyclones outside shooting would keep them close.
While the Cyclones hit 8 of 15 3-pointers in the first half, the Bears were ice cold behind the arc starting off just 1-10 and finishing the half 2-12 and clinging to a 1 point lead, 37-36.
If the first half was defined by 3-point shooting, the second half was defined by turnovers. The two teams combined for just 9 turnovers in the first half, with Baylor committing 4, however the second half saw Cyclones smaller and quicker defenders scrambling all over the court.
With a defense that trapped the ball handler any time the Bears went to their pick-and-roll, Baylor could never go to their bread-and-butter motion offense. Iowa State packed the paint with defenders and dared the Bears to hit jumpers or penetrate. Too often, Baylor would choose poorly, ending up with 9 turnovers in the second half.
Those turnovers proved costly, as Baylor's offense stagnated badly in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Their intentions were good, as 12 3-pointers in the first half turned into just 5 in the second, but their intentions led to bad passes and too many turnovers.
The five seniors for Iowa State executed their game plan perfectly. They made the Bears take tough shots, and do things they are not used to. They left Ish Wainright open to shoot in spots that he is not comfortable with. They harassed the Bears big, fronting them down low and making post entry passes difficult.
The lone bright spot was Jake Lindsey, who scored 7 points on 3-4 shooting to go along with two made three-pointers. With Lindsey picking up the scoring, it overcame bad shooting performances from Manu Lecomte (3-10), Al Freeman (0-5) and Ish Wainright (1-8).
Jo Acuil led the Bears with 15 points and 8 rebounds, while Jonathan Motley recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Baylor would get back into the game by taking care of the ball and attacking the rim, led by Al Freeman with back-to-back drawn fouls to cut the lead to 1 point at 52-51. The Cyclones would respond though once again, rebuilding the lead back up to a game high 6-points with under 5-minutes to play.
The comeback started inside, as Jonathan Motley scored on a tough layup, followed by a Jo Acuil attack that forced a foul and two made free throws. The Bears would tie it up on a nifty Jake Lindsey layup at 61. Another layup by Acuil off of an Ish Wainright pass tied it once again at 63 with just over 2 minutes to go.
Baylor and Iowa State would trade missed jumpers until Baylor would get the ball with 40 second to go. After the Bears final timeout, Baylor would once again put the ball in Manu Lecomte's hand with the game on the line.
As the clock ticked closer to its culmination, Manu attacked left, stopping for a tough rising floater for the go-ahead bucket with 8.6 seconds left. Iowa State would turn to their all-american point guard, Monte Morris, to answer. However the tremendous defense of Ish Wainright forced a tough fall-back baseline jumper that bounced off the rim, securing a Baylor victory.
This is Big 12 play. You have to win ugly, and the Bears survived their first test. A year after going 4-5 at home in Big 12 play, they won a tough game in front of the home crowd. Even with committing 8 more turnovers. Even with making 7 fewer 3-pointers and shooting 17.6% behind the arc. Even with missing five three throws and allowing Iowa State to control the tempo. It was a win, a beautifully ugly one at that.
Stats of the Game
- Baylor outrebounded Iowa State 47-28
- The Bears shot 23-42 on 2-point shots and held Iowa State to 13-39
- Baylor held Iowa State scoreless the last 2:22 of the game
- The Bears outscored Iowa State 40-24 in the paint
- Iowa State outscored Baylor 30-9 outside the arc
Player of the Game
Jake Lindsey - 10 points, 2-3 3-point shooting, 1 rebound, 1 block
It isn't the flashiest or the biggest line on the team. Jonathan Motley had 13 points and 12 rebounds. But no player was bigger for the Bears when they needed it. He was the lone Bear to hit more than one 3-pointer, and he had the bucket to tie the game at 61. He played big minutes in the second half as Al Freeman and Manu Lecomte struggled with their shots. He made the right entry passes down low and played his usual excellent defense.