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The Monday After: Recurring issues plague Cyclones’ trip to Baylor

Robert+Jones+celebrates+on+the+court+moments+before+Iowa+State+upsets+undefeated+Houston+57-53+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Jan.+9%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Robert Jones celebrates on the court moments before Iowa State upsets undefeated Houston 57-53 at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 9, 2023.

The Cyclones’ 70-68 loss to Baylor Saturday was filled with recurring issues that have plagued Iowa State in conference play, but also saw the continued emergence of one of its most talented scorers.

As Iowa State now sits at 5-3 in the Big 12, it is clear what the losses have in common and what needs to be fixed for the Cyclones to remain contenders for the conference title. If their style of play on the road continues in the second half of league play, they could find themselves in a tough spot come March.

Different team on the road

Saturday’s game against the Bears was an opportunity for the Cyclones to prove their spot in the top 15 and snatch another road win in the Big 12. Instead, they proved again that they are a completely different team when away from Hilton.

Iowa State has heavily benefited from jumping out to early leads at home, in which it has not found the same success on the road. They kept up with Baylor through the first ten minutes, but the Cyclones’ ugly shooting quickly caught up with them as the Bears got their offense rolling and became the aggressor.

Moments like this do not happen for the Cyclones when they play at home.

When in front of a stacked crowd at Hilton, they look like one of the best teams in the nation.

But when asked to go on the road, execute in close games, they have fallen short so far this season as they now sit at 1-3 in Big 12 road games.

In those losses against conference opponents, Iowa State has shot an average of 42% from the field, but has allowed its opponents to connect on 46.7% of their shots.

Compared to how the Cyclones perform at home, they have made 43.4% of their shots and more importantly, have held their opponents to 39.9%.

Although Iowa State at one point had a 20-point scoreless run in the second half, that massive run was not enough to make up for the multiple scoring droughts that it encountered throughout the game.

When the Cyclones are at home, a 20-point scoreless run would all but put the game away. But when on the road, their scoring droughts are more frequent, which allows opposing teams to gain momentum.

Free throws becoming a liability

If it was not apparent before Saturday’s game, Iowa State’s inconsistency at the free throw line was on full display. The Cyclones shot 19-for-32 from the charity stripe against Baylor, including 12 misses in the second half, six of which came in the final six minutes.

Even if Iowa State shot around 65 to 70% from the line, it would not have had to rely on desperation attempts in the final minutes. Despite having generous officiating for much of the second half, the Cyclones trouble at the line was present throughout their matchup with Baylor.

The Cyclones are now the worst free-throw-shooting team in Big 12 play, with an ugly 66% mark through eight games. Iowa State lives off of getting inside and drawing fouls. It has not found consistent success in such a big part of the offensive makeup.

Gilbert continues to shine

One of the only bright spots Iowa State saw against Baylor was the continued growth of guard Keshon Gilbert in conference play. He scored 24 points, the most he has had since the start of Big 12 play, on 7-for-12 shooting from the field.

Gilbert had his best 3-point shooting performance of the season, an area that the Cyclones struggled in against the Bears. He connected on his first five attempts from deep, including a buzzer beater from the Baylor logo and multiple spot up shots in each half.

The junior transfer from UNLV has averaged 17.4 points per game on 51.2% shooting in the Cyclones last five contests, and has made up for the lack of scoring a noticeably still-banged-up Tamin Lipsey.

He has adapted to the style of Big 12 play and was the reason that Iowa State had a chance against the Bears.

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