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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 2, 2024 3:55 am

Skid over, No. 18 Baylor braces for battle with No. 12 Iowa St.

No. 18 Baylor has seen first hand just how challenging the Big 12 can be this season, dropping three consecutive games before finally bouncing back for a come-from-behind, 77-69 win over UCF on Wednesday night.

The slate doesn’t ease up for the Bears, who will face No. 12 Iowa State on Saturday in Waco, Texas.

The Bears (15-5, 4-3 Big 12) took all three of their conference losses in heartbreaking fashion, with two ending in overtime and the other winding up with a two-point margin. Had those games gone the other way, things would be different for Baylor.

“That’s the parity in this league,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said after the UCF game. “Three possessions from being a top-three team. We just had to keep getting better. (Against UCF), I think we showed some improvement in some areas.”

Conversely, the Cyclones (16-4, 5-2) are rolling, having won three consecutive games, including a 79-75 win over then-No. 7 Kansas on Jan. 27.

Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger knows his team can’t afford to ease up.

“Every single night it’s the mindset to be prepared to be at your best to do it on game night,” Otzelberger said. “And then regardless of outcome, get right back to practice to do it again. We’ve got to continue to keep our focus on being at our best.”

Baylor has the luxury of playing in Waco, where it is 10-1 this season. The Bears’ only home defeat came in the most recent home game, a 105-102 triple-overtime setback against TCU on Jan. 27. Baylor is averaging 84.7 points per game and allowing 71 per outing.

Ja’Kobe Walter is the leading scorer for the Bears, putting up 14.9 points per game. He has knocked down a team-best 41 3-pointers this season.

RayJ Dennis is averaging 13.2 points per game, while Langston Love, coming off a career-best 24 points against UCF, is scoring 12.2 points per game. Love made five 3-pointers against the Knights and has connected 34 times from beyond the arc this season.

Jalen Bridges (10.7) and Yves Missi (10.4) are also averaging double-digit scoring for the Bears, with Bridges eclipsing the 1,000-career-point mark in Baylor’s victory over UCF.

Iowa State will be playing just its fifth true road game of the year when it heads to Baylor, having split the previous four. The Cyclones are putting up 80.5 points per game and rank among the national leaders on defense, yielding 61.8 points per contest.

Tamin Lipsey leads the Cyclones with averages of 13.9 points and 5.7 assists per game, with the latter figure ranking fourth in the Big 12.

Iowa State’s Keshon Gilbert is pouring in 13.7 points per game. He played a huge role in the win over Kansas, scoring seven points in the final three-plus minutes.

Milan Momcilovic is averaging 13.1 points per game and tops the Cyclones with 42 made 3-pointers.

Tre King, who puts up 9.9 points per game, had a 21-point contest against the Jayhawks. He knocked down four 3-pointers, more than doubling his season total of treys.

–Field Level Media

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