By Daniel Hill
With only three home games remaining in the schedule, Baylor basketball had a golden opportunity to get a resumé — boosting win against Iowa State on Wednesday night.
The opportunity slipped through the Bears’ fingers as Iowa State defeated Baylor 87-82.
The Bears are now 7-6 in the Big 12 Conference and are on the verge of missing the NCAA tournament entirely and going straight to the NIT.
With the home loss to Iowa State, Baylor has dug itself a hole that it now must climb out of in the last five games of the season.
Defensively against the Cyclones, the Bears struggled in transition and Iowa State capitalized by burying 11 three-pointers.
“It’s tough,” junior forward Cory Jefferson said. “We were rotating a lot on defense, so a lot of times people were missing their man on the defensive end when they shot, and that would leave them open, sometimes, to get an offensive rebound.”
Thankfully for the Bears, the schedule does provide them with plenty of room to bolster their resumé before the NCAA tournament selection committee makes their choices.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew believes his Baylor squad still has what it takes to make the NCAA tournament.
“Definitely, I think we have a lot of potential,” Drew said. “You see the parity in college basketball where anybody can get on a roll at any time. I thought our upperclassmen had a good tone this week in practice. I thought warm-ups were good, and we got off to a good start. Unfortunately they got hot and we didn’t defend well enough to keep that lead at the beginning. The upperclassmen, they rise this time of year, and I believe in our upperclassmen and they’ll set the tone. Hopefully we can make a couple adjustments, tweaks on the defensive end to give us a better chance to keep people from scoring 87 and shooting 54 percent.”
One of those upperclassmen is senior guard Pierre Jackson.
Jackson showed resolve in the loss to Iowa State by scoring 30 points and tallying eight assists.
Jackson uncharacteristically struggled from the free throw line, making one of seven free throws on the night.
Jackson is a 75 percent free throw shooter on the season so his one of seven effort was truly uncharacteristic.
“I really don’t know what to call it,” Jackson said. “I did my regular routine every time and it wasn’t able to fall for me. Those free throws were the difference in the game, I believe. If I had knocked those down we probably would have won the game or gone to overtime.”
On Saturday, the Baylor Bears hit the road to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.
When the Bears hosted the Sooners earlier in the season, Oklahoma toppled Baylor 74-71 at the Ferrell Center.
In that game, Baylor trailed by three with just seconds remaining, but last-chance shots from both Pierre Jackson and junior shooting guard Brady Heslip were off the mark on their desperation 3-pointers. Oklahoma finished that game shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Baylor, on the other hand, shot 37.3 percent from the floor.
After the Sooners, the Bears then head to West Virginia on Wednesday to face the Mountaineers in a raucous atmosphere. If the Bears can survive these two road tests, then the last three games of the regular season will all be played in Texas.
Baylor will have a chance to end the year with two spectacular upset bids as it is scheduled to host both No. 13 Kansas State and No. 9 Kansas. A road trip to Texas is sandwiched in between hosting the two Kansas schools.