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Iowa State kicks off Texas road trip with prove-it game against Baylor

Joseph Dicklin
Point guard Tamin Lipsey pushes past Johnny Furphy of Kansas to make two during the Iowa State vs. Kansas match on Jan. 27, 2024 in Hilton Coliseum.

After an action-packed week at Hilton, the Cyclones head to Texas for a pair of games against tough Big 12 competition, starting with No. 18 Baylor on Saturday.

The Cyclones are coming off a pair of wins over Kansas State and then-No. 7 Kansas. After gritty hard-fought games, they had a week off before preparing for Baylor.

The bye week could not have come at a better time either, as rest was much needed for a team that was still recovering from the start to the Big 12 grind. However, despite having longer than usual to prepare for their next game, the Cyclones are still focused on the job at hand.

“At the end of the day, we just wanna take it one day at a time,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We had an opportunity to take a break, so we did that.”

The number one thing that Iowa State wanted to focus on over its break was maintaining momentum. The Cyclones are on a three-game winning streak that started with a win on the road. Now they have to prove they are a top-15 team as another ranked matchup awaits them.

Although the Cyclones have had success to start the Big 12 season, they cannot afford to come off the break sleepily.

The key to maintaining momentum going into the Baylor matchup is simple:

“Just keep on working. We got more work to do,” Keshon Gilbert said. “Not getting complacent.”

Saturday will be a prove it game for the Cyclones in more ways than one. Not only will they need to hit the ground running on their trip to Texas, they also want to make it known that they can win outside of Hilton.

Although the Cyclones have a win on the road in recent weeks, they dropped two Big 12 games prior, both to ranked teams. With the importance consistency plays in finding success in the Big 12, proving they can play consistently on the road will be important for the Cyclones.

“If we get two or one win on this road trip, I think it will be big,” Curtis Jones said. 

Road wins are hard to come by in the Big 12, as every road atmosphere provides unique challenges. There is a reason Hilton Coliseum has become a place of upset for many highly-ranked teams in the conference.

It is hard enough to match up with teams in the conference that is regarded as the best in the nation, but doing so on the road is an even bigger ask.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Jones said. “The fans, they do make a difference.”

Jones highlighted how loud arenas can get in favor of home teams, although he also knows how special Hilton is too. It rivals most other places in the nation in atmosphere.

“I don’t know if it gets as crazy as Hilton,” Jones said about playing on the road.

Playing in different atmospheres is a big reason winning on the road is so tough in the Big 12. Getting used to the playstyle of Big 12 teams is even harder on the road, as Jones and Gilbert attested to.

However, the team knows what is at stake and knows that now is the time to lock in.

“Whether it’s the first time a guys been there or they’ve been in there before, I think it’s just the mindset to do that job,” Otzelberger said.

Baylor will not be an easy team to topple. Although the Bears have looked more beatable than recent years, they will be coming off a win on the road.

However, Baylor also had a three-game slide before its most recent win. Baylor may have had a rocky pair of weeks, but it is still ranking in the top 20 for a reason.

Iowa State did prove it could win on the road after taking down TCU, who went into Waco, Texas, and took down Baylor in triple overtime. Not only that, the Cyclones won on the road without their star point guard Tamin Lipsey.

Now that Lipsey is back up to full speed and the team is well rested, they are looking to make a statement against Baylor.

“He’s a big part of the team, so it feels good to have him back on the road,” Gilbert said.

Lipsey is one of the few players on the team that has experience beating Baylor, so having him in the lineup will add a boost Saturday.

Although it is easy to look at last season’s success against Baylor, the team is focused on forgetting about the three wins and entering this season’s matchup with a fresh mind.

“Last year’s last year. It’s great that we had the wins that we had last year, and that should give some of the returning guys confidence that we can go there and win,” Otzelberger said. “But other than that, the players are different, the teams are different, the game’s different, the timing is different, so we just need to make sure that we’re focused on what we can do.”

The Cyclones will take on Baylor at 7 p.m. Saturday at Waco, Texas. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN2.

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