Rushed Reactions: #16 Iowa State 74, Baylor 65Posted by Brian Goodman on March 15th, 2014
Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Big 12 Tournament final between Iowa State and Baylor.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Iowa State perseveres before finally getting over the hump. After Iowa State’s dominant shooting performance against Kansas, the Cyclones found scoring to be much more of a struggle in the first half against Baylor’s zone defense. Things couldn’t have started much worse for Fred Hoiberg’s squad, as they fell behind 11-1 to start the game and didn’t hit its first shot from the floor until more than seven minutes had passed in the first half. Iowa State’s Big Three of Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang were stifled into a miserable 3-of-17 performance before intermission, and the team as a whole shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half. Baylor’s zone moved very nicely, doing an excellent job of denying the lane and closing out on the perimeter at the same time to keep the Cyclones at bay, even though the Bears weren’t doing so hot on offense themselves. Baylor extended its five-point halftime lead to eight midway through the second half, but the Cyclones slowly chipped away. Although Baylor quieted an Iowa State-dominant crowd for most of the second half by answering with buckets of their own, the Cyclones finally broke through with consecutive three-pointers by Naz Long and Ejim and sealed the win from there.
- Big second half propels Iowa State to the Big 12 Tournament crown. All told, the Cyclones were fortunate to only be down by five points at halftime. They shot poorly and had a hard time cleaning up their misses, but fortunately for them, Baylor didn’t fare much better, shooting just 34.5 percent from the floor in the first half themselves. The Cyclones simplified their attack in the second half, mostly relying on close looks and mid-range jump shots to keep the game close before going over the top with the aforementioned pair of three-pointers. A 69.6 percent shooting clip in the second half powered Iowa State past Baylor in the home stretch.
- Naz Longs puts the clamps on Brady Heslip and chips in offense, too. Baylor’s sharpshooting senior set the tone for the Bears in the game’s opening minutes, burying two threes to help catapult Baylor to an 11-1 lead. Almost right away, Fred Hoiberg subbed Naz Long into the lineup and stuck the sophomore on his fellow Canadian. For the rest of the game, Long chased Heslip through countless screens and gave him no room to breathe. Heslip finished with an admirable 14 points, but he converted just one three-pointer after halftime. Long showed some range himself, thriving off the favorable crowd to hit four out of six attempts from distance. Yesterday, I questioned Iowa State’s ability to get production from its bench to cancel out a potential down game from one or more of their primary contributors, but Long answered that bell tonight.
Star of the Game: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State. It was Ejim and Long who hit the three-pointers to finally give Iowa State the separation it needed, but Kane played a role in closing things out by hitting some clutch free throws to put the game away. In many ways, Kane epitomizes Iowa State’s attitude. He picks his spots to be aggressive and when to defer, and the Big 12 Tournament MVP can do so many things to help his team win that it’s extremely difficult for opposing defenses to phase him out.
Quotable: “We played together. We trust one another. We fight with each other. We’re brothers. We love playing with each other. You see it on the court, even though we get down. We’ve been getting down in leads like that all year, but we trust one another, we keep fighting and we always find a way to get it done.” – DeAndre Kane, on the perseverance that his team showed not just tonight but throughout the season. This was my third time watching Iowa State in person, and whether they were close to taking the lead like tonight or in a slightly deeper hole like they were after Kansas made a 20-5 run on Friday evening, the constant theme was that you always knew the Cyclones were going to make a run. It wasn’t always enough, but it was tonight.
Sights and Sounds: Sprint Center and the entertainment district right outside of it turned into Hilton Coliseum South over the weekend. The stands were flush with red and gold and it was amazing to see the Iowa State fan base keep the place rocking after the local teams were sent home earlier in the week. The Cyclones’ loyal crowd has caught some flack lately for the emotion with which it reacts to officiating, but there’s absolutely no doubt that they’re in love with their team and its hoops.
What’s Next: Iowa State figures to be a very trendy pick to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but before drawing any conclusions, we’ll have to wait to see their draw that will be unveiled Sunday night. The Bears were one of the last teams in the Big 12 to sew up an NCAA Tournament bid, but their resume gained some value with a semifinal win over Texas on Friday night. Given Scott Drew’s history in March, it makes a lot of sense to tab Baylor to outperform its NCAA seed.