Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State men's basketball faces No. 2 Baylor in Bears' first game since COVID pause

Bears are undefeated overall, Cyclones winless in Big 12 play

Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates a score against Texas during the second half of an NCAA college basketball
Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates a score against Texas during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AMES — The last time Baylor stepped on a court to play a men’s basketball game was Feb. 2 when the No. 2 Bears beat the then-No. 6 Texas Longhorns, 73-69.

Baylor has missed the last three weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak that forced the Bears to shut down.

Iowa State travels to Waco, Texas, to play Baylor in its first game back at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN+).

“I’m not even sure how much they’ve practiced,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “Have they practiced all week or has it just been two or three days? From that standpoint, hopefully it gives us an opportunity to get off to a good start.

“We know how good they are.”

Baylor (17-0, 9-0 Big 12) is just one of two undefeated teams left in the nation along with No. 1 Gonzaga.

The Bears boast a potent backcourt duo in Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell. Butler is averaging 17 points per game while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range. Mitchell’s scoring is a bit down from Butler’s at 13.6 points per game but he’s shooting a ridiculous 49.4 percent from beyond the arc.

“I don’t think they’d change much after their layoff, especially because they’ve been so successful,” Prohm said. “Offensively, they give the guards a ton of freedom and use a bunch of ball screens. I don’t see them changing much.

“We know how good they are. Butler and Mitchell are as good of a backcourt as anyone in the country. And defensively, as a whole, Baylor is as good as anyone in the country.”

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The Bears are holding teams to just 41 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range.

Baylor forces 18.6 turnovers per game and averages 24 points off those turnovers.

If Butler and Mitchell are a problem for opposing teams on the offensive end — and they are a problem — they’re equally as problematic on the defensive end.

Butler averages 2.5 steals per game, Mitchell 2.1.

In Iowa State’s 66-56 loss Saturday to Oklahoma, Prohm started a different group in the second half than he did at the beginning.

He switched Javan Johnson and Jaden Waker for Tyler Harris and Tre Jackson.

Prohm said he’s still deciding on who will start against Baylor, but he knows he’ll need everybody he can get.

“They’re (Johnson and Walker) in good spirits and they understood the reason we stayed with those guards in the second half,” Prohm said. “Tre and Tyler gave us a good lift off the bench and their spirit and their focus has been really good. We’re going to need both Jaden and Javan because both have shown flashes throughout the year. And with the guards that Baylor has, we’re going to need a lot of guards so we can stay fresh, defensively.”

Iowa State (2-16, 0-13) has yet to win a Big 12 game and this is the second-to-last regular-season game on the schedule. The Cyclones had three games postponed earlier in the season that have yet to be made up.

Prohm said he expects at least two of them to be played next week, if not all three.

Either way, Iowa State is running out of opportunities to get a win. Prohm, however, still is trying to find the positives in each opportunity.

“When we played Baylor Jan. 2, we played them really well,” Prohm said of his team’s 76-65 loss. “We were down five with the ball with two minutes to go. That’s probably as good as anyone has played them.”

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