Not a time for panic following Baylor loss

Jameel McKay makes a move to the basket against Baylor on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at Hilton Coliseum. Baylor won the game 94-89, handing the Cyclones their first home loss of the season.

Ryan Young

Following Iowa State’s 94-89 loss at home to Baylor on Saturday, the Cyclones seem to already be a step behind the rest of the league.

Iowa State has two conference losses in the first three games, and has lost a game on its home court. With the Big 12 conference as strong as it is this season, and six teams either ranked in the top-25 or receiving votes, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said defending the home court is the key to winning the conference title.

And with the Cyclones seemingly in an early hole, ISU coach Steve Prohm made one thing clear after the game Saturday night.

“You don’t panic,” Prohm said. “You stay the course. We’ll figure it out, and hopefully starting Tuesday at Texas.”

Now, a home loss doesn’t ruin Iowa State’s chances at a regular season conference title. Not even close. But still, it won’t be easy.

The Cyclones still have games with top-ranked Kansas, No. 17 West Virginia and Texas. No. 2 Oklahoma will come to Ames once more, and the Cyclones will head to Waco, Texas, before the season ends to take on Baylor once more.

But even with such a daunting schedule ahead of them, Prohm believes they still have a chance at a championship.

“I’ve studied it all,” Prohm said. “I know it all. [Iowa State] still had a chance to win the league last year and this happened. You don’t have any nights off in this league.”

Junior guard Matt Thomas, who finished Saturday’s game with eight points and seven rebounds, said the Cyclones need to bounce back, and that starts with getting back-to-back road wins this week — something he thinks they can do.

The Cyclones will head to Austin to take on Texas on Tuesday, and then to Manhattan, Kan., to play Kansas State on Saturday. And while fans may weigh these games heavier than others, Thomas certainly isn’t.

“Maybe fans and you guys think it’s added pressure, but you can’t look at it that way,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to play.”

Center Jameel McKay agrees with Thomas, saying he knows how important these next few games will be. He’s not overcomplicating it, though. Instead, he’s recalling the Oklahoma game from a week ago.

The Cyclones fell to the Sooners by four points, but were in the game until the very end. If they can play like they did in Norman, Okla., he said, they will be fine.

“[We need to] come with the same focus we did when we went to Oklahoma,” McKay said. “I think if we come with that focus against a lot of teams in the country, we’ll put ourselves in a great position to win.”