Jan 21, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Scott Drew smiles after beating the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY — Scott Drew knows struggles are all relative.
Things can look awfully bad once you drop a couple of games late in the season after getting off to a strong start. It has happened to his Baylor team, which has lost three straight games entering Thursday’s battle with Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.
It is an almost identical situation to the one facing the Cyclones. Three weeks ago, both of these teams were Big 12 title contenders. Now, they are trying to bust out of slumps during the season’s most crucial stretch.
“The irony is when we say people struggle usually it’s a couple possessions here or there and now you’re playing great basketball if those turnaround,” Drew said after his team’s practice at the Sprint Center on Wednesday. “Usually, it comes down to shots. If you make a couple more shots, you’re playing really well and if you miss a couple what’s it matter?”
Baylor was one of only two Big 12 teams to sweep both meetings with the Cyclones this season and they did it with almost completely different approaches as a team. In the first meeting on Jan. 8, the Bears rode their traditional post-heavy style playing through star sophomore big man Tristan Clark to a 73-70 in Waco.
Just a few days later, Clark was lost for the season due to a knee injury and Drew’s team had to reinvent themselves. The final product was a guard-oriented attack built on sharing the ball and creating open looks for guys like Makai Mason, who said he will play in Thursday’s game despite Drew saying earlier in the day he was a game-time decision with a toe injury that’s hampered him throughout the last month.
The Bears rode this approach to the top of the Big 12 standings for a majority of the conference slate. It was the same approach, coupled with prolific offensive rebounding, that allowed Drew’s team to come into Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 19 and leave with a 73-69 win.
“I think we played two really good games. The first one was completely different because it was the last game with Tristan Clark. That first game, we really played through him. He generated so much offense for himself and the rest of his teammates,” Drew said. “The second game, obviously, completely different. We did what we’ve done most of the year which is a lot of sharing the ball and creating shots for each other.”
[Insert cliche saying about the difficulty of beating a team three times here.]
It is one of those things you hear over and over at this point every year. Drew even brought it up during his media session on Wednesday. He knows Iowa State poses a tough task regardless of the struggles they have faced over the last several weeks.
Besides, struggles are all relative anyway.
“Iowa State’s, obviously, a team that everyone knows is extremely talented and gifted from the standpoint of so many players that can score 20 or more. That makes them really dangerous,” Drew said. “They do a great job not turning the ball over. Teams like this, when they’re shooting the ball well, it’s really hard to guard.”