College basketball’s best conference has another big-time top-20 showdown set for Saturday night on ESPN2 at 7PM CST. The 12th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones will travel to Waco, Texas to take on the 18th-ranked Baylor Bears. With the Big 12 conference adding new teams this season, this is the only regular-season matchup between the two squads.
Baylor ended a 3-game losing stretch with a win over UCF on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Iowa State comes into the matchup winners of 3 straight games. That includes a road win over a ranked TCU team, and a win over Kansas in Ames last Saturday. How can the Cyclones continue their stretch of good basketball and improve to 6-2 in conference play? Here are 3 keys to an Iowa State victory in Waco, this Saturday.
1. Iowa State must get off to a hot start and win the first half
The first halves of games in conference play have played a major factor in the outcome of the Cyclones first 7 conference games. In their two losses (Oklahoma & BYU), Iowa State trailed at halftime. Meanwhile, in each of their 5 wins, they have held a lead at half-time. Not only that, but they have held a double-digit lead in 4 of their 5 wins, the lone exception coming against the Kansas Jayhawks. Winning on the road against any Big 12 team is a difficult task. How the Cyclones come out of the gate in the early going will be a big factor in the outcome of the game.
2. Limit the scoring from Baylor’s impressive backcourt
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Baylor Bears have a talented backcourt. Year after year, Scott Drew gets great guard play. Just in recent years, Baylor has had Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and Keyonte George, to name a few. Just like in years past, Baylor has terrific guard play, this year’s unit is led by freshman Ja’Kobe Walter.
Notable Baylor Guards this season:
Ja’Kobe Walter - 14.9 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 1.6 assists per game
RayJ Dennis - 13.2 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, 3.7 rebounds per game
Langston Love - 12.2 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists per game
If Iowa State wants to come out of Waco victorious on Saturday night, they will need to limit the scoring from these 3.
3. Win the battle beyond the 3-point line
Iowa State was able to knock off the Jayhawks after shooting an impressive 14-30 (46.7%) from 3-point territory. In their most recent loss (to BYU), Iowa State made just 4 out of 14 shots from downtown. While they don’t shoot the most threes in the conference, Baylor does lead the Big 12 in 3-point percentage, knocking down over 40% of their threes.
Iowa State will not be able to afford another 3-point disparity like the one they saw against BYU. The Cougars made 9 more threes than the Cyclones en route to a 15-point win. Look for Curtis Jones and Milan Momcilovic to knock down some shots, and Iowa State to secure another Big 12 road win.