"Before the game, Coach said the season's made in February," said Marcus Jefferson, who came off the bench to score six points in 24 minutes. "We've got a bunch of big games coming up during this month and this was one we had to have tonight. We need to get a few more before the season closes."
While ISU is not where it wants to be starting the final full month of the regular season, it actually equaled last year's Big 12 win total. The killer schedule of January will make way to some more manageable contests this month, but the self-professed Doctor Doom isn't getting his hopes up too high, especially with a trip to Boulder on the horizon.
"It doesn't get any easier," said Eustachy. "Kansas State had Oklahoma beat. Colorado's right there at the wire with Missouri. Texas A&M beat Texas Tech. Baylor's tough schedule enabled them to almost beat us. That's a tough team.
"The funny thing is we're 2-5 and excited. Plus we've tied the total wins from last year and that was a big accomplishment for us. But we needed to have that win, get a couple days off and prepare for Colorado."
Horrid play in the backcourt has hindered the Cyclones during all five league losses, but that wasn't the case against Saturday.
Jake Sullivan caught fire early and cruised to a 26-point, four-assist performance. Tim Barnes found his shot and contributed 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Even more importantly, the two turned the ball over just five times. As a team, ISU committed just 11 turnovers three nights after posting 23 at Oklahoma State.
"I knew I'd come out and play well tonight," said Sullivan, who hit on 9-of-11 shots from the field and made three of his five attempts outside the 3-point arc. "I was confident. Coach Eustachy taught me a lot the last couple days, with some leadership stuff and getting people involved.
"It wasn't so much scoring. Some nights I'm going to have 26 points some nights and others I might have six. It was about other things to help this team win. That helped tonight and got me in a nice rhythm from the start."
Foul problems inside allowed Baylor to stay within striking distance the entire game. Lawrence Roberts and company chased Jared Homan off the court after the ISU center picked up his fourth foul just 10 seconds into the second half. As a team, the Bears made 16-of-22 free throw shots and took over momentum midway through the session number two by scoring 10 unanswered points.
But that's when Homan started to assert himself. Eustachy subbed in the sophomore and he promptly hit a short jumper with 6:01 to play. He followed it up by knocking down the front end of a one-and-one to even he score at 62 apiece. Homan later capped a game-clinching six-point swing with a pair of free throws at the 4:07 mark.
It wasn't Homan's late-game scoring punch that had everyone talking, however. It was his defensive work on Roberts, despite playing with four fouls much of the time.
"I didn't get to play much in this game and my fouls kind of hindered me," said Homan, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds before fouling out at the 1:30 mark. "I knew I'd get the chance to go in at the end. Coach came by me a couple minutes before I came in and said, ‘Homan, you've got to get in there and help us win that game.'
"I was really down on myself getting those fouls and not being able to help the team. So when I got in there, I really tried to make an impact and turn this game around. I was fresh and ready to go. I could not have handled a loss with the way I played."
Added Eustachy, "I didn't know what he was going to do when I put him back in, because he was struggling throughout the game. We don't win the game without Jared at the end. He came up huge."
Kenny Taylor paced Baylor – winless in six Big 12 games – with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting.