Baylor vs. Iowa State: Score, Grades and Analysis

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Baylor vs. Iowa State: Score, Grades and Analysis
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

DeAndre Kane made to the move Ames, Iowa to prove he belonged among the best guards in college basketball. After Tuesday night, few should doubt he can excel no matter the level of competition.

Kane narrowly missed out on a triple-double and Melvin Ejim scored 18 points, as No. 9 Iowa State got its biggest win of the season with an 87-72 victory over No. 7 Baylor at James H. Hilton Coliseum. 

The Cyclones, ahead by only a single basket at halftime, dominated the second half with a series of fast-break points and easy buckets created by dribble penetration. Kane was at the forefront of that effort, dropping effortless dimes off to big men resting on the baseline and looking to push the ball at every opportunity. 

The senior guard, who spent his first three seasons of eligibility at Marshall before transferring to Iowa State, started 7-of-8, propping the Cyclones up with 17 first-half points. He concentrated more on grabbing boards and dishing the ball in the second half, but still managed to score 30 points—a career-high during his short time at Iowa State. He also added nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals, an all-around brilliant performance when his team needed it most.

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Iowa State (14-0) came into Tuesday's contest as the ninth-ranked team in the country but still searching for respect. Despite already boasting victories over Michigan and Iowa at home this season, the Cyclones were the lowest-ranked undefeated team in the nation.

Suffice it to say the Cyclones should find themselves in line for a big rankings bump.

Kane was joined by Ejim in having a big night for the Cyclones. The senior forward was often the recipient of lead passes from his point guard, and threw down more than a few ferocious jams—one of which got him a technical for hanging onto the rim. Reserve guard Monte Morris added 13 points and four assists on a night where Iowa State finished with 23 dimes as a team.

After the game Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg talked about Kane via the Associated Press: "He's a mismatch nightmare out there, when you have a guy who is 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, strong as an ox and he's experienced. He's a smart player."

Baylor, running a mostly staid offense, just couldn't keep up. After making an uncharacteristically high seven of 14 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, the Bears' outside shooting slowed to a crawl in the final 20 minutes. Guards Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin led the way with 15 points and four three-pointers apiece, but Baylor failed to score 80 points for the first time in a month.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

More than anything, the Bears can blame mental errors for their second loss of the season. They turned the ball over 19 times, allowing Iowa State to get out in transition. Baylor struggled all night getting back on defense, and weren't all that much better in the half-court.

Facing a zone designed to limit dribble penetration, Kane spearheaded a Cyclone offense that shot 54.8 percent from the field. With the score close at the half and Baylor even taking a 42-40 lead at the 18:42 mark in the second half, Iowa State went to work breaking the spirit of its visitor. A quick 12-3 run after the Bears took the lead soon extended itself into an 84-63 Cyclones lead with just three minutes remaining.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Center Isaiah Austin finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for Baylor, but turned the ball over five times and didn't do a great job of protecting the rim. Forward Cory Jefferson also had a rough night, settling for difficult looks rather than trying to take advantage of his size down low.

The Bears, whose only previous loss came against No. 2 Syracuse, should have an opportunity to regather their momentum. They have three straight contests against unranked Big 12 squads before their next big test—a Jan. 20 trip to Lawrence to face Andrew Wiggins and No. 18 Kansas.  

Meanwhile, the Cyclones' Big 12 teeth show themselves almost immediately. They travel to Oklahoma on Saturday, starting a five-game slate where they are either on the road or facing a Top 25 opponent. It's a gauntlet that could halt the team's surprising start.

Then again, after Tuesday night, it's pretty hard to count them out. 

Player Grades

Starters Grade
F Cory Jefferson C
F Royce O'Neale C-
C Isaiah Austin B-
G Kenny Chery D
G Gary Franklin B-
Bench Grade
F Rico Gathers C
F Taurean Prince C+
G Ish Wainright C
G Brady Heslip B

Iowa State
Starters Grade
F Melvin Ejim B
F Georges Niang C
F Dustin Hogue B-
G DeAndre Kane A
G Matt Thomas C
Bench Grade
C Percy Gibson C
G Naz Long C+
G Monte Morris B
G Sherron Dorsey-Walker C
F Daniel Edozie C

Players of the Game: DeAndre Kane (G, Iowa State), Brady Heslip (G, Baylor)

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Kane has just one season in Ames, but he's certainly making the most of it thus far. The senior guard was something to behold in the first half, getting out in transition and breaking the Baylor defense from all over the floor. He hit seven of his eight first-half shots, including two of three from deep, and proved nearly impossible to stop. 

After spending his first three years of eligibility at Marshall in relative anonymity, Kane is proving that his gaudy numbers weren't just because of weak competition. He's shown an uptick in efficiency, seen a wild uptick in his rebound rate and continued to be one of the better passers in the nation. The ball tended to be in his hands too much at Marshall, but Hoiberg has done an excellent job of coaxing the best version of Kane.

Tuesday night was further proof that he could handle the spotlight even against Top 10 competition.

Selecting a top player for Baylor is a little more difficult, as nearly every player had warts in their performance. Austin turned the ball over like it was his job, Heslip is a consistent minus on the defensive end and the Bears overall did not execute when they needed to on either end.

By his sheer ability to actually hit shots, Heslip gets the nod. Most of his points came in a time where a Baylor victory was still feasible, and the team's spacing was far better whenever he was on the floor. Austin had a double-double and is always fun to watch, but his points all too often feel empty. 

What's Next?

Both teams return to the floor Saturday in Big 12 action against unranked opponents, but with wildly differing strengths. Baylor should have no trouble running TCU out of the gym when the Horned Frogs visit Waco, but Iowa State may have a bit more difficulty when it travels to Norman to take on Oklahoma.

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