Iowa St.-Baylor Preview
Iowa State played two players off the bench for a combined 20 minutes against Baylor five weeks ago and folded down the stretch in a high-scoring defeat at home.
Starters like Georges Niang and Monte Morris still are the catalysts for the 13th-ranked Cyclones, but the recent suspension of Jameel McKay helped some regular reserves emerge.
Iowa State looks to win back-to-back games for the first time since late last month by dealing the 25th-ranked Bears a fourth consecutive home loss in Big 12 play Tuesday night.
Coach Steve Prohm suspended McKay two games for an unspecified violation of team rules on Feb. 6, forcing Marquette transfer Deonte Burton into the starting lineup. Burton scored 11 points in a win at Oklahoma State that night before finishing with a season-high 20 in Wednesday's overtime loss at Texas Tech.
McKay returned for Saturday's 85-75 win over then-No. 24 Texas and scored eight points, but Prohm still started Burton, who finished with 10. Burton hadn't started all year prior to the last three and scored two points in seven minutes of 94-89 loss to Baylor (18-7, 7-5) on Jan. 9.
Guard Jordan Ashton also has seen his minutes increase over the last three, combining for 63 after playing 80 the entire season prior to that stretch.
"We don't really talk about our depth at all. We just try to keep them fresh, keep them focused," Prohm said. "This league is so tough to where ... guys are going to have expanded roles and that's what we have."
Niang scored 22 points, Morris had 21, six assists and four steals and Abdel Nader had 20 in the last meeting with Baylor, but the Cyclones (18-7, 7-5) blew an 11-point second-half lead as the Bears went with a nine-man rotation and shot 52.3 percent.
Baylor coach Scott Drew understands containing Niang and Morris - who leads the nation with a 5.15 assist-to-turnover ratio and is tied with Bears guard Lester Medford for the Big 12 lead in assists at 7.0 per game - is a priority, but he's noticed other Cyclones being more involved.
Niang and Morris scored 24 points apiece against the Longhorns on Saturday.
"Burton has stepped up, Morris is really shooting the ball well and they have guys who have increased their production," Drew said. "It's a better team and a deeper team than it was at the beginning (of Big 12 play)."
Johnathan Motley finished with career highs of 27 points and 13 rebounds off the bench in last month's win over Iowa State in a showcase of Baylor's depth, but it has regressed lately, especially at home.
The Bears have dropped three of four overall and three straight home conference games after being routed 84-66 by Texas Tech on Saturday. Tied for the Big 12 lead coming into February, Baylor is now deadlocked with Texas and the Cyclones for fourth in the conference.
"I think you have to credit the Big 12," Drew said. "It's tough to win on the road (in league play), but that doesn't mean you're going to win at home. Each game is a dog fight."
Baylor has won the last three meetings with Iowa State and the last two matchups at home, but Niang believes the Cyclones are getting back on track now that McKay is back in the fold. They've gone 2-3 since a four-game winning streak from Jan. 16-25.
''I just feel like the last couple of games, we really didn't have the will to win,'' Niang said. ''We used that motivation. When you want it that bad, you're going to pull it out.''