Iowa State to face No. 7 Baylor in last regular season game


Tyler Coe

Jaren Holmes shoots a corner three against West Virginia on Feb. 27, 2023.

After a senior night loss, Iowa State men’s basketball will take on No. 7 Baylor in its last game of the regular season.

The Cyclones have struggled recently to get wins, as they have won just two of their last 10 games. Additionally, the team was just faced with another difficulty as senior guard Caleb Grill was released from the team Wednesday.

“The team is focused on the task at hand, and that’s Baylor right now,” Osun Osunniyi said.

Iowa State last played Baylor on Dec. 31 where they won 77-62 at home. The Bears are currently on a two game winning streak and are ranked third in the Big 12 standings, below Kansas and Kansas State.

Baylor got swept by Kansas State and grabbed a win and a loss against the Jayhawks. Additionally, the Bears had three-straight losses at the beginning of Big 12 play.

Jaren Holmes said he feels no pressure and that the goal is to just go out and have fun.

“We’re back to being the underdogs,” Holmes said. “That’s how we started that great run that we had, and that’s where I like to be.”

With the release of Grill, Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said every individual on the team will need to step up and that its main goal right now is bringing back the spirit they once had.

“I stand behind the fact that there was point in this season, probably a month ago, where the spirit that we had, the energy we played with, the enthusiasm, the passion that our guys played with on the court and as a team, was as strong as any team in the country,” Otzelberger said. “We are working tirelessly in every way possible to make sure we bring that back to our program.”

Looking at the Baylor team itself, Otzelberger said the Bears are “gifted” from an offensive standpoint and that its defense brings both “switchability and versatility.”

However, Otzelberger said when you are the more aggressive team playing with more enthusiasm in all aspects, it makes the chances of winning much higher.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel at this point,” Otzelberger said. “We’re trying to get guys to play to their strengths, to do the things that they do well and do them to their best ability.”

Additionally, in the first matchup against Baylor, the Cyclones held the Bears to their season-low point total of 62 points.

“We’ve got to challenge that offense with our defense, and that will allow us to gain the momentum we need,” Otzelberger said.

A player that may be seen more on the court is freshman Demarion Watson. Otzelberger said Watson brought great defense and will now be given more opportunities to help the team.

“I feel strongly that our defensive identity we’ve created will be the way to [win and score points],” Otzelberger said.

Freshman Eli King may also have an opportunity to get some minutes in on the court. King has a season-high seven minutes of playtime this season, which was against IUPUI in November.

“Eli has been working his tail off the entire year with no questions, nobody saying anything to him, no recognition and he’s not getting rewarded with the minutes, but he’s just doing it because he loves to play basketball,” Jaren Holmes said. “I’m excited for him…he’s going to make the most of it.”

Following the game against Baylor, the Cyclones will prepare for both the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve got a lot in front of us still this year,” Otzelberger said.

The Cyclones will tip-off against the Bears at 11 a.m. Saturday in Waco, Texas. The game will be streamed live on ESPN2.