Iowa State singularly focused on Baylor match-up

Cyclones insist they're not looking farther ahead on the schedule

Rob Gray
Published: February 2 2013 | 5:51 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:52 am in
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AMES — Don’t ask Iowa State sharpshooter Tyrus McGee to engage in a detailed discussion of the Big 12 Conference standings.

Or anything but the next game on the schedule.

“I try not to look,” McGee said.

It’s a team-wide sense of tunnel vision indicative of a single-minded focus on Saturday’s 7 p.m. conference game against talented Baylor at Hilton Coliseum.

The Bears (14-6, 5-2) currently sit in a three-way tie for second in the league standings.

ISU (14-6, 4-3) is tied with Oklahoma State in fifth after Wednesday’s strange, protracted conclusion to a 78-76 setback in Stillwater.

The Cyclones led by 11 points in the second half, but saw protested calls and uncontested dunks late lead to their third Big 12 road loss.

“You feel like you had the game and there it goes,” said forward Georges Niang, who notched 16 points and eight rebounds but faulted himself for mistakes on help defense. “We’re all about winning over here, so that’s a tough one to hold onto.”

So they won’t.

Nor will they contemplate a future beyond Saturday, even though a home win coupled with another one Monday over Oklahoma would vault them up the standings.

That’s coach’s orders.

“We’ll take it one game at a time like we always do,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who added job No. 1 would be to slow Baylor’s dynamic point guard, Pierre Jackson. “I know it’s a big cliche, but that’s how it works. If you look ahead at multiple games, you might tend to lose a little bit of focus.”

A little bit, either way, means a lot for the Cyclones, who have shot a torrid 52.2 percent from 3-point range in their last two games.

ISU drilled 13 of 24 attempts from beyond the arc against the Cowboys, and have hit 11 or more long-range baskets 10 times this season.

Only four teams — Creighton, Charleston Southern, Iona and Canisius — average more 3-pointers per game than the Cyclones at 9.3.

“I think we’ve done a good job all season moving the ball and getting good shots,” said ISU’s Chris Babb, who broke a 4 of 18 3-point shooting slump by going 5 of 6 Wednesday. “I think that’s when we’re at our best.”

Most of the time, Babb’s intent on negating good looks instead of finding them.

He’ll likely draw guard duty on Jackson, who averages 19 points, six assists and four rebounds.

“He’s small, quick, fast, can shoot it,” Babb said. “Good ball handler. I’ll just have to do what I can do.”

Streaky shooter Brady Heslip flanks Jackson in the backcourt, and athletic big men such as Isaiah Austin (9.4 rebounds) and Cory Jefferson (2.2 blocks) will challenge the Cyclones on the block.

“Their bigs are animals,” Hoiberg said.

And ISU’s working on a monster streak, one win at a time.

Earning one Saturday pushes their home winning streak to 19 games — and 12-0 this season.

“Got to keep Hilton magic alive,” McGee said.

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