AMES, IOWA -- The lowered heads exiting toward the Hilton Coliseum tunnel and the quiet fans filing out of the arena said everything that needed to be said. Iowa State certainly knew what was at stake entering its top-25 showdown with Baylor, and so this result needed no scientific explanation.
In the end the answer, really, was quite simple.
“They hit shots,” coach Fred Hoiberg said, “we didn’t.”
No. 19 Baylor connected on seven consecutive 3-pointers late in the second half as part of a 25-8 run to end the game, ultimately claiming a 79-70 win at Hilton Coliseum, its first in 13 tries. The win snapped Iowa State’s 21-game winning streak at Hilton, but more importantly kept the Cyclones from a first-place tie with Kansas in the now-jumbled Big 12.
Instead, Iowa State enters the final week and a half of conference play stuck in a three-way tie for second place.
“You would have thought after the week we had and what was at stake that we would have come out of the locker room with great urgency,” a dejected Hoiberg said afterward. “We just didn’t have that early and they got comfortable and in a rhythm. Then they hit them on us late.”
Boy, did they hit them.
When Iowa State took an 8-point lead with 8:28 remaining, Baylor followed by hitting a 3-pointer 20 seconds later. That would be just the beginning. Baylor coach Scott Drew immediately burned his final timeout.
From there, Baylor hit six-straight 3s. By the time the barrage had come to an end, the Bears had canned seven 3s in a span of 3 minutes, 27 seconds to take control with a six-point lead. Baylor made 14 3s in all, tied for the most by a Big 12 team in league play this season.
“When they had that lead, the last eight minutes of the game, at the end of the day, making shots really helps,” Drew said. “We made shots, they had open shots, missed the shots, and momentum swung.”
Iowa State never recovered. The Cyclones, who shot 43.4 percent from the field, missed their final nine field goals in the final 6:25.
“We missed shots out there where you could have ate a sandwich and shot the ball. We were absolutely wide open,” Hoiberg said. “I thought it affected us on the other end. As opposed to missing a shot and going down and getting it back. You can’t let that happen.”
The loss wasted a career-high 21-point effort from Jameel McKay, who also grabbed eight rebounds and swatted four shots. Matt Thomas continued to showcase his renewed confidence, following up his career performance from Saturday — a career-high 17 points on 4-of-6 from 3 — with 13 points on 3-of-5 from 3.
Instead, the focus rests on Iowa State’s second-place standing in the conference.
“The way I guarded tonight was absolutely embarrassing,” Thomas said. “That’s all that matters to me right now.”
“We just didn’t stick together as a team,” McKay added. “We stopped communicating, we lost our togetherness, which led to open shots.”
Iowa State didn’t talk about the first-place tie that was at stake Wednesday, but the emotions afterward showed the knowledge didn’t elude them.
“We talked about taking care of today,” Hoiberg said. “That’s all we talked about. We didn’t talk about any championships that are there.”
Now, the talk shifts to rebounding in a Big 12 chase.