ROAD RECAP: Cyclones surge early, fade down the stretch in 77-72 loss at No. 2 Baylor

Feb 23, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton (45) passes the ball past Baylor Bears guard Davion Mitchell (45) during the second half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

 It’s become a painful, all-too-familiar pattern during this winless Big 12 season.

 1. Iowa State puts forth a spirited effort against a top team.

 2. That opponent — in Tuesday’s case, unbeaten and second-ranked Baylor, coming off a long COVID-19 layoff — makes all the plays down the stretch.

 3. The Cyclones go down in heartbreaking fashion, yet again.

 Final score: Baylor 77, ISU 72. The Cyclones (2-17, 0-14) have had a chance to win all six games this season played against teams then-ranked in the top 10, but turnovers and poor possessions on both ends in the closing minutes have doomed each of those strong efforts to defeat.

 “I said, ‘Hey guys, losing sucks. It’s tough. It’s hard,” ISU head coach Steve Prohm said on the Cyclone Radio Network postgame show. “What you guys have dealt with is tough, but, man, I had a lot of fun coaching this group tonight. … They were terrific.”

 The Bears (18-0, 10-0) never led until inching ahead, 66-65, on Macio Teague’s free throws with 4:26 left. The Cyclones surged to a 32-15 lead on Tyler Harris’s 3-pointer with 6:26 left in the first half and staved off each Baylor run until the final four-plus minutes.

“We just played with pride,” point guard Rasir Bolton said. “Our back’s against the wall, we don’t have anything to lose, so we came together as a team and just said, ‘We’re going to fight.’ No matter the outcome, we were just going to play together and see what happens.”

 Harris paced ISU with a season-best 22 points, including five 3-pointers. Bolton added 21 points and a team-leading eight rebounds and six assists, and Jalen Coleman-Lands contributed 13 points on a tough shooting night.

“I’ve always had confidence when I’ve been out there,” Harris said. “I’ve been playing hard and the groups that have been on the court with me, they’ve been playing hard, too.”

 They played hard Tuesday, too, but the payoff ultimately eluded them one more time. 

 “(Harris) is not having the season he probably imagined in some different forms and fashions, but just his ability to really make plays tonight and compete against (Davion) Mitchell; Tre Jackson, all these guys, ‘J-Cole,’ George (Conditt IV) rim running and Javan (Johnson), I thought, really played well in the second half, made some big shots,“ Prohm said. “I was proud of all of these guys. We gave them everything they wanted for 40 minutes. We just need to make one more play on both ends of the floor ro finish the game.”

 Adam Flagler scored a season-high 22 points off the bench for Baylor — and almost single-handedly chopped down ISU’s big lead in the closing minutes of the first half.

 Flagler scored seven straight points at one critical juncture and drained four of the Bears’ eight successful 3-point attempts.

 Jared Butler chipped in 18 points and Teague had 14 for Baylor, which outscored the Cyclones by 11 points at the free throw line. ISU was whistled for twice as many fouls as the Bears (22 to 11) and never entered the bonus in the second half. 

 “We played with great poise and toughness all night,” Prohm said. “They made a couple plays down the stretch more than we did. Hats off to Baylor. They’re very good.”

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