Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - With the Big 12 Conference regular-season title still up for grabs, a pair of ranked rivals get together on Wednesday night when the Baylor Bears pay a visit to the Iowa State Cyclones.
No. 19 Baylor enters this contest sporting a 20-7 record, which includes an 8-6 league ledger. The latter has the team currently in fifth place in the Big 12 standings, but only two games out of top spot in the loss column with four to play. The Bears have won two in a row following a brief two-game slide, and their most recent triumph came at home versus Kansas State last Saturday, 69-42. BU has won two of its last three away from home, and is 5-4 in true road tilts this season.
Iowa State is the 12th-ranked team in this week's AP Poll, and it too has logged 20 wins on the campaign, against six defeats. The Cyclones are 10-4 in conference, good for second place at the moment, just a half game behind Kansas. ISU is riding the crest of a modest three-game win streak, during which it has topped the likes of West Virginia (79-59), Oklahoma State (70-65) and Texas (85-77), the last two taking place on the road. The Cyclones are 14-0 at home this season, and they've won 14 straight in Ames against Big 12 foes.
These two teams met in Waco back on Jan. 13, and it was the Bears who came away victorious in a 74-73 final. Four of BU's starters scored in double figures, led by Royce O'Neale with 15 points, while Rico Gathers posted a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds. For ISU, Naz Long hit five 3- pointers to tally 19 points in pacing four double-digit scorers as well.
As a result, Iowa State's lead in the all-time series dropped to 17-11. The Cyclones have never lost to the Bears in Ames, going 12-0.
Taurean Prince scored 14 points and dished out five assists to help lead Baylor to its recent rout of Kansas State. The Bears, who also got double- digit scoring efforts from Gathers (13 points), Lester Medford (12), Al Freeman (11) and O'Neale (10), made good on 49.1 percent of their field goal attempts, knocking down 8-of-16 3-point shots along the way, all while claiming a 36-29 edge on the glass, paced by Gathers and his 10 rebounds. BU struggled at the charity stripe (7-of-17), but played exceptional defense in allowing the Wildcats just 38.3 percent success from the floor, which included a woeful 1-of-16 showing beyond the arc, and forcing 15 turnovers as well.
Despite coming off the bench in the majority of the games in which he has played this season, Prince leads Baylor in scoring (13.1 ppg), 3-point baskets (43) and steals (37). He ranks third on the team in rebounds (5.5 rpg). Additional production comes from Kenny Chery (11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg), Gathers (11.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg) and O'Neale (9.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), all of whom help the team generate 69.2 ppg on the strength of its 37.3 percent performance out on the perimeter. Baylor's defensive prowess limits opponents to just 58.8 ppg, as those foes convert a mere 39.3 percent of their total shots, including just 28.8 percent from long range. A massive +9.6 rebounding margin has been integral as well.
Georges Niang and Matt Thomas poured in 17 points apiece, and they were joined in double figure by three others as Iowa State knocked off Texas last Saturday. That balanced attack was needed as the Longhorns got big scoring games from Kendal Yancy and Isaiah Taylor with 29 and 23 points, respectively. The Cyclones used a 12-of-21 showing from 3-point land and a 21-10 edge in points from the foul line to thwart UT's upset bid. Iowa State, which outscored the 'Horns in bench points, 33-31, won the game despite being beaten on the boards, 43-32.
Iowa State possesses one of the more balanced offensive attacks in all of college basketball, as the team boasts six double-digit scorers in netting an average of 79.8 ppg. Niang leads the way with 14.6 ppg, while Monte' Morris turns in 10.9 ppg to go with his club-best 5.4 apg. As for the team's rebounding effort, that is spearheaded by Jameel McKay with 6.6 rpg, although Bryce Dejean-Jones and Niang are close behind at 5.5 and 5.4 rpg, respectively. The Cyclones' defensive stance allows for 69 ppg, and they are holding their opponents to 41.8 percent field goal efficiency, while goading them into more than 13 turnovers per outing.