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AMES — Here’s how you absolutely, positively don’t win a college basketball game against anyone, let alone a team as good as ninth-ranked Baylor:
Get out-rebounded by 20, give up 20 offensive rebounds, and surrender 26 second-chance points while scoring just two.
If those gruesome numbers Saturday at Hilton Coliseum couldn’t spell out a sixth-straight loss for Iowa State against the Bears, nothing would. And nothing did. Instead, it was the Cyclones’ fifth-straight Big 12 win, a 72-69 doozy.
You can be bad in one class and still make the dean’s list if you are straight-A’s in everything else. That was Iowa State Saturday. It shot 57.8 percent from the field. It turned the ball over a mere five times. It committed just nine fouls and allowed Baylor but five free throws.
And, when the Bears had a chance to send the game to overtime with a last-minute 3-pointer, ISU guard Monte Morris harassed shooter King McClure just enough to help him be errant without getting called for a foul.
“I didn’t touch him at all,” Morris insisted later. “I just didn’t want him to get a clean look. … I jumped to the side.”
The way the senior point guard has played under control for years, I’m willing to accept every word as gospel.
This game had to have that nerve-racking finish because it was 40 minutes of crisp, tight, tense ball played in the fever-pitch atmosphere Hilton is known for when the opponent is worthy.
Baylor has been the Cyclones’ worst Big 12 matchup over the last three seasons. You could see why throughout this game with all the second- and even third-chance shots the Bears got.
“I didn’t know it was minus-20,” ISU Coach Steve Prohm said about the rebound discrepancy. “I knew it was bad.
“We’re just small. We are what we are. That’s why I’m proud of these guys for being tough enough to figure out ways to win.”
Cyclone senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long agreed, noting “It says a lot that we’re tough, we’re gritty. Our heart determines our height and ultimately if we can just find a way to be a better rebounding team, we’ll be that much better.”
Baylor’s Johnathan Motley, a 6-foot-10 fourth-year junior, found offensive rebounds and putbacks to be low-hanging fruit. You’ll seldom see a player make collecting 27 points and 11 boards seem so easy.
Motley was a winner in his two previous trips to Hilton, which few visiting players get to say. He surely won’t be back next winter because the NBA is calling.
So how did the Cyclones negate Motley and 7-foot teammate Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.? Well, it wasn’t as if freshman forward Solomon Young, power forward Deonte Burton, and backup Darrell Bowie didn’t push back.
Young was unafraid to battle inside and made all four of his shots. Bowie gave his team six-plus good minutes in the second half when Iowa State turned a 44-44 tie into a 58-52 lead as Burton watched and rested for the thrilling conclusion.
Oh, about Burton. He is a bouncy 250-pound Whitman’s Sampler. You never know what you’re going to get from him, but it’s never dull.
When he is off, like when he managed just two points in 27 minutes in his team’s overtime win at Texas Tech last Monday, he can be way off. But when he’s good, he’s brilliant.
Like when Burton had 29 points in a win at Kansas early this month. And, when he went inside and out to notch 22 here Saturday, including a banked-in 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:16 left that extended ISU’s lead to 65-61.
“Definitely the play of the game in my opinion,” said Baylor Coach Scott Drew.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Motley said.
“I was blessed,” said Burton.
But as Motley noted, hot shooters make shots like that. Burton was dialed in from the get-go at both ends of the floor. He blocked three shots, and he made a lot of good decisions with the ball.
It took everything for the Cyclones to cancel out their rebounding conundrum. Good decisions, good shooting, good ball handling, good defense.
Iowa State, 19-9 overall and 11-5 in a really good league, has become a good team. Again.