Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State has to be physical against Baylor in Big 12 tournament quarterfinals

Cyclones try to beat Bears for first time this season in 4-5 matchup

Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm, talking with guard Nick Weiler-Babb during the first half of a game at West Virginia, said the Cyclones have to be tougher in the Big 12 tournament. (USA Today Sports)
Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm, talking with guard Nick Weiler-Babb during the first half of a game at West Virginia, said the Cyclones have to be tougher in the Big 12 tournament. (USA Today Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Steve Prohm and his Iowa State men’s basketball team know what Baylor is going to do.

The Cyclones have played and lost to the Bears twice this season. Baylor is going to shoot 3-pointers and crash the offensive glass.

Baylor (19-12, 10-8) makes eight 3s per game and grabs 13.4 offensive rebounds per game. It rebounds roughly 25 percent of its misses.

No. 5-seed Iowa State (20-11, 9-9) will try to match No. 4-seed Baylor’s physicality in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Sprint Center.

Prohm said Baylor has “out-toughed” his team both times this season.

Baylor’s Mark Vital is just 6-foot-5 but weighs 230 pounds. He’s second in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding, grabbing 3.5 per game.

Iowa State freshman Talen Horton-Tucker is physically similar to Vital and will likely guard him and be tasked with keeping him off the glass.

“Vital pushes you a lot, so being able to match that intensity and aggression is one of the most important points of emphasis,” Horton-Tucker said.

Iowa State’s last two practices have been focused on rebounding and staying tough on the boards.

“We’ve been really physical the last couple of days,” Prohm said. “That being said, it’s more so the weakside rebounding. When we get in rotation we have to weakside rebound. Our big guys can’t move or help off penetration. We have to do a great job of first guarding the ball, then if you can’t block the shot, you can’t over help to put us in rotation.

“Then, our guards are usually leaking out in transition, but they need to flood the elbows to get all the long rebounds. We have to be tough. Vital, he’s going to ride you under the basket. Freddie Gillespie, he’s going to ride you under the basket — that’s what they do. We can’t worry about that. We have to match that physicality.”

The Cyclones have two shot blockers in Cam Lard and George Conditt. But their blocking prowess also gets them out of position for rebounds. Prohm said Lard has had a great week of practice and he’s excited to see how he responds to the limited playing time he’s gotten during Iowa State’s last two regular-season games.

“(Blocking a shot) is something you really have to measure up and time up correctly,” Conditt said. “At the end of the day, you have to live with the decision that you made and hope that if you go try and block the shot, your teammate has your back on the help side. That’s what we’ve been working on in practice — help-side box outs and timing up blocks.

“Cam and I are always block-hungry to try and stop the other team and build momentum on our side. But we also have to learn and understand that sometimes we make a decision to go block a shot and it’s a bad decision that leads to offensive rebounds and putbacks. We’ve been really locking in and staying focused on when to go get the block.”

Iowa State’s starting big man, Michael Jacobson, isn’t a shot blocker. He said physicality is the biggest key to the game.

The Cyclones have had a bad three weeks, going 2-6 and getting out-toughed in many of those eight games. The Big 12 tournament is a chance for the Cyclones to get some positive momentum going into the NCAA Tournament.

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“Without question, a win (Thursday) and a win Friday will spearhead you going into the NCAA Tournament,” Prohm said. “It also gives your guys a chance to improve confidence.”

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