KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The last month or so of Iowa State’s season didn’t go according to plan.
Five losses in a six-game stretch and rumors of chemistry issues within the team threatened to derail a train that, after an 18-5 start to the season, was traveling full speed.
Questions arose. Could Iowa State right the ship in the postseason, or was it too late?
But with an 83-66 win over Baylor, the Cyclones showed just how dangerous they can be.
“Man, it was great,” said redshirt senior guard Marial Shayok, who finished with 18 points. “That’s behind us now. Moving forward it’s a new season. We just wanna go out there and win as many games as possible.”
Aside from a rocky first-half stretch in which the Bears snagged several offensive rebounds, Iowa State played with a chip on its shoulder. The Cyclones battled inside, outscoring Baylor 28-24 in the paint and getting the free throw line consistently.
When Baylor collapsed on drives, the Cyclones’ four-guard lineup made the Bears pay.
Iowa State connected on 13 of the team’s 25 3-point attempts Thursday and assisted on 15 of 30 total made baskets.
“I think we got back in the right direction,” said sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton.
Wigginton said he felt the team was playing together in the season finale, a loss to Big 12 champion Texas Tech.
With the postseason underway, moral victories don’t count for much anymore. Iowa State may have figured out its issues at the right time.
“I think we [haven’t] played like that since a month ago,” Wigginton said. “Once we lost those seven games, I think we weren’t locked in and focused.”
Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament resume is more or less set in stone. The Cyclones could help their seeding with a strong performance, but the Big 12 Tournament serves more as a way for a reeling team to get back on track.
Wigginton and others said this game was the first time in a while they felt like they were having fun on the court.
“I think we just played tough,” said redshirt senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb, who had eight points, six rebounds and three assists. “We played gritty, we played grimy, that’s how you’ve got to win this time of year.
“We kinda got back to our basics … people know we’re capable of it, and we just had to be confident in ourselves.”
Threes were falling. Passes were crisp.
After freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton nailed a big shot before a timeout, he was greeted by a celebratory shove from freshman forward George Conditt IV. Freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker, who drilled five 3-pointers, flexed as he walked back toward the team huddle.
The first man to greet him time and time again was Michael Jacobson, who Horton-Tucker allegedly feuded with last month. While both players said they squashed the issue, the team chemistry was still a question. Now, it’s at a level unseen since the Cyclones’ 78-64 win at Kansas State on Feb. 16.
At the end of the day, Haliburton said, the players know what’s most important.
“Stop looking at people’s opinions on us,” Haliburton said. “We don’t really care at all. As long as everybody in this locker room knows what he can do, and the dudes in those suits on the bench, we don’t care.”
Source: Iowa State Daily