Playing complete game will be key to road victory against Baylor


Senior Will Clyburn and freshman Georges Niang box out a Baylor defender during a free-throw attempt on Saturday, Feb. 2, in Hilton Coliseum.

Alex Halsted

The question has become a broken record for Iowa State: What has been the struggle to close out road games?

The Cyclones (17-8, 7-5 Big 12) fell short in overtime after leading Kansas much of the second half; they led Oklahoma State 74-70 with just more than one minute left and lost; and just one week ago Texas fought back to force double overtime where it eventually pulled out the win.

In Big 12 play, Iowa State has gone 1-5 on the road with the lone victory coming against TCU, which is 1-11 in conference play. Still searching for road success and a quality road victory for its NCAA tournament resume, the test to close out a road game will continue against Baylor (16-9, 7-5) on Feb. 20.

“I’ve liked our mentality on the road; we’ve been right there,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “You lose one in double overtime, you lose one in overtime. We had leads going into the final seconds.”

The team has had plenty of heartbreakers, ranging from a bank shot that led to a win and a half-court shot before halftime that ended up making the difference.

ISU guard Chris Babb said the team has been “unlucky,” but it isn’t ready to blame bad luck. Instead, Iowa State would like to put itself in a better position late in games.

“I just don’t think we’ve executed down the stretch,” Babb said. “On the road in the Big 12 we’re playing 30, 35 minutes of great basketball and then there’s that five- or six-minute stretch where [the other team will] go on a run late.

“If we want to win on the road, we have to play a full 40 minutes.”

Hoiberg said the team is also giving up easy baskets far too often late in games, noting it gave up three to Texas in the final minutes last week to allow the Longhorns to steal another game.

“We get a five-point lead with 1:30 left and a team comes down and gets an uncontested layup,” Hoiberg said. “You can’t give teams easy baskets like that.”

When Iowa State met Baylor in Ames on Feb. 2, it won 79-71 despite going just 4-of-24 from beyond the arc. The Bears are holding opponents to a 29.9 shooting percentage on three-pointers so far this season.

The Cyclones overcame that mark by going 25-of-30 at the free-throw line to close out the win down the stretch. That, though, was at the comfy confines of Hilton Coliseum, where the Cyclones have won 20-straight games, dating back to January 2012.

The road has been a different story.

“A lot of games are won at the five-minute mark at the end of the game,” said guard Will Clyburn, who scored 28 points in the team’s win against Baylor. “I feel like at the five-minute mark that we’re not getting the stops that we need to.”

Against the Bears, the Cyclones will attempt to at last seal a much-needed road victory.

“I think every game is going to be extremely important from here on out,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to have to find a way to close some of these games out.”