Cyclones Hit Road One Last Time

Iowa State hasn't been a good road team in Big 12 play this season, going 3-5, but if the Cyclones can top Baylor tonight in Waco, they'd keep alive their hopes at a No. 2 conference seed

As far as conference games are concerned, Iowa State is not a very good away team. The Cyclones have an average margin of defeat of 4.37 points on the road, a deviance from their total in-conference margin of score of minus-2.37. For comparison's sake, Texas Tech's away-game deviance is 1.75 points worse than their total in-conference margins.

In a three-team tie for second place in the conference (Kansas State lost Monday at Oklahoma State), the Cyclones might look back on road slip-ups to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State and wonder what could have been. But what's done is done. The Cyclones have two regular season games left before the Big 12 tourney next week, and just one away game remains, tonight at Baylor (6 p.m., ESPN2).

The Bears have a couple problems. They're not a great home team, going 4-4 at the Ferrell Center with an average margin of 2.625 points, not drastically better than their away margins (-.5 points), suggesting it's hardly a House of Horrors. Hilton Coliseum, on the other hand, is worth a deviance of plus-6.37 points for the Cyclones.

Baylor also under-utilizes one of the nation's best offensive weapons in Isaiah Austin, or at least enables the 7-foot-1 Austin to take three-pointers and long twos instead of posting up. Austin scored 10 points in Baylor's 87-72 loss to Iowa State in early January, a number that looks worse considering the damage bigs like Joel Embiid and Cam Ridley have done to the Cyclones.

Austin is still one of the nation's very best shot-blockers (No. 15 nationally with a 12.3 block percentage; 3.2 a game) and is cleaning up on the offensive glass. Just last Saturday against Texas Tech, Austin grabbed six offensive rebounds to mitigate a scoreless night.

A five-game losing streak from mid-to-late January left Baylor with a 13-7 record and 2-6 Big 12 clip. It was a big upset Feb. 1 when the Bears beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but in hindsight just the first sign the Cowboys had serious issues of their own. Baylor lost the next two but the schedule has since flipped and it has won five of its last six to at least put it on the bubble with a 19-10 (7-9) record.

Senior forward Cory Jefferson has been key to the regroup and the Bears often peak as he does. In 19 wins, Jefferson is averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. In 10 losses, Jefferson scores 10.7 points on average with 6.6 rebounds. The Bears need the burly Jefferson to be a factor Tuesday, especially as he gave them nothing offensively the last time out against Iowa State (seven points in 22 minutes).

Kenny Chery, one of the nation's top point guards with the No. 16 assist rate, will also look to atone — he was 3-for-14 in the loss to ISU. Super sixth man Brady He'slip is one of the very best offensive players in the country, with the No. 2 offensive rating, the No. 10 effective field goal percentage and the No. 12 turnover rate. Heslip is drilling three-pointers at a 45.6 percent clip.

For the Cyclones, same drill as usual: DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang. The three each use over 26 percent of ISU's possessions (fourth on the list is Dustin Hogue with 16.5) and take the lion's share of available shots, so when one is suffering — like Niang's 3-for-14 mark in the loss to KSU — it's not going to be good, but when all three are on, good luck to the opponent.

Projected Starting Lineups (ht, yr, ppg, rpg, fg %).

No. 16 Iowa State (22-6, 10-6)

  • PG: DeAndre Kane (6-4, sr., 16.6, 6.8, 5.9*, 48.5)

  • G: Monté Morris (6-2, so., 6.3, 3.7*, 40.7)

  • F: Dustin Hogue (6-6, jr., 10.5, 8.6, 53.8)

  • F: Melvin Ejim (6-6, sr., 18.9, 8.6, 52.5)

  • F: Georges Niang (6-7, so., 16.5, 4.3, 48.4)

    Baylor (19-10, 7-9)

  • PG: Kenny Chery (5-11, jr., 10.9, 4.9*, 42.8)

  • SG: Brady Heslip (6-2, sr., 11.4, 1.3, 44.5, 46.2^)

  • F: Royce O'Neale (6-6, jr., 7, 4.6, 54.1)

  • PF: Cory Jefferson (6-8, sr., 13, 8.4, 50.2)

  • C: Isaiah Austin (7-1, so., 10.7, 5.6, 43)

    *denotes assists per game; ^three-point percentage

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