Basketball

Cyclones seek to end worrisome skid against Baylor

Feb 16, 2016; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Monte Morris (11) reacts as his last second shot did not count sending the game to overtime against the Baylor Bears at Ferrell Center. Baylor won 100-91 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Every time Scott Drew forms a ’T’ with his hands at a seemingly inopportune juncture, Monté Morris shakes his head.

But ISU’s star point guard gets it.

What’s crazy to some is merely unconventional (and effective) for others — and it’s unwise to separate Baylor’s consistent success from the fact that Drew charts it at the helm.

“Sometimes it just comes down to, really, some teams just give you problems,” said Morris, who hopes to help the Cyclones (9-3) snap a four-game skid against Drew’s third-ranked Bears Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Waco. “Since I’ve been here, Baylor’s been one of those teams. They’ve got a great coach and he always takes that timeout around the seven-minute mark. He does it every year. I don’t know. At the time I always think it’s a bad idea but it always works. Good guy, good strategy and much respect for him. We’re just trying to go down there and win.”

Doubt Drew’s coaching prowess all you want, but his track record — at large and versus ISU — proves he’s adept at his job.

The Bears (13-0) own an unthinkable (even for Kansas) two-game win streak at Hilton Coliseum.

They’ve won five of the last six meetings with the Cyclones and feature multitalented Johnathan Motley among another stellar cast of characters.

Motley averaged 27 points and 11.5 rebounds in a pair of wins over ISU last season and his combination of length, skill and end-to-end canniness poses myriad challenges.

“Move your feet,” said Cyclones forward Deonte Burton, who had 14 points and six rebounds in a 100-91 overtime loss in Waco last season. “Never be flat-footed because Motley will duck you in, he will get the position if you’re not moving.”

Good night when that happens.

Burton and everyone that resembles a big in ISU’s lineup must be on their toes. Success on Wednesday will start on the defensive end. Burton said he wasn’t good enough against Motley the last time around, but is poised to be on the committee tasked with holding him in check on Wednesday.

“He exploits the mistakes that we make,” Burton said. “Like last year, I made a lot of mistakes playing against him and he exploited them every time.”

If — and it’s a big if — the Cyclones can force Motley and company into contested shots as well as controlling the defensive glass, they’ll have a chance.

Baylor’s zone defense leaves it vulnerable to adroit perimeter shooters and ISU has plenty of those.

The Cyclones drilled double-digits 3-pointers in both narrow losses last season, but how will a four-guard offense work against the length-driven Bears?

Hint: It might be good in stints, but is unlikely to be a game-long tactic.

“For us to be great, we need Deonte to be terrific for us,” said ISU coach Steve Prohm, who used a four-guard lineup to fuel a second-half comeback in his team’s Big 12-opening win over Texas Tech. “We need Darrell Bowie, we need all those guys to play well. If we have to play four guards, we’re working on it more. I think we’re more in sync with it to where we can do good things with that. Now, some games are going to lend themselves to where you can and some games you may try it and you just can’t — it’s not going to be the best thing for you that night. Whatever game it is we’ve got to put the best lineup on the floor that gives us the best chance to win.”

The four-guard lineup sparks tempo, something that’s been oddly lacking at times for the Cyclones.

Nick Weiler-Babb pushes the pace efficiently (22 assists, six turnovers), as does Donovan Jackson (22 assists, eight turnovers).

And we all know what Morris — a two-time NCAA record-setter in assist-to-turnover ratio — can do with the ball in his hands.

They must all be better than they’ve been all season to make a game-changing triumph in Waco possible.

“(When) we’ve struggled with them we let their zone attack us and a lot of that is on me, too, for not being aggressive,” said the preseason All-American, who averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 assists against Baylor last season. “So going down there, I’m going to be a lot more aggressive to attack the zone and just live with the results, because that’s the way we’re going to have to do it to win.”

Just like Drew and his timeouts. Laugh all you want. He knows what he’s doing — and the Cyclones know what they’re up against.

“I think he’s done an unbelievable job with the situation he took over there,” Prohm said. “You look at the resume he’s built, whether it’s Elite Eights, Sweet 16s, NCAA Tournament appearances, pros, he’s done an amazing job. So whether they want to call you a good coach, a bad coach, I think he’s probably OK with that if he just keeps winning games and making great postseason runs and having players that go on and do well.”

Rob Gray

administrator

Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.