By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
No. 2 Baylor men’s basketball took a slow start into a dominant second half against Iowa State for a 68-55 win. After just 30 points in the first half, the Bears lit up the scoreboard for a 13-0 run after the break.
With just five points before the first-half buzzer, sophomore guard Jared Butler seemed in line for a disappointing game for all the NBA scouts in attendance, but his box score filled up as he ended with 19 points and five assists to drive Baylor’s success in the second half.
Iowa State’s star guard Tyrese Haliburton struggled shooting all night, posting just six points on 2-12 shooting, over ten points less than his season average. He did make up for it in other facets of the game with nine assists and eight rebounds, but Baylor head coach Scott Drew said postgame there was “a lot of prayer” put toward stopping their leading scorer.
“He had a lot of good looks,” Drew said. “And normally he makes those, but nine assists. I mean, you can only hope to limit him because he’s too good to wipe him out. You know he’s going to do a lot of positive things. The key is he doesn’t have those triple-double nights against you.”
Three other Bears reached double-digit scoring in the win, with sophomore guard Davion Mitchell at 17, redshirt-senior forward Freddie Gillespie at 14 and junior forward Mark Vital at 11. Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said after the game that their balanced scoring can keep a team off balance.
“We’ve got to compete better on defense,” Prohm said. “Especially when you’re going up against a guard group that can dribble, pass and shoot like Teague, Mitchell and Butler. And then they’ve got toughness and size up front.”
Mitchell drove the offense for most of the first half, executing three free throws right before intermission and kick-starting the early second-half run with back-to-back three point shots.
Baylor’s defense carried the team to stay competitive in the first half, however, as the Bears suffocated any offensive momentum the Cyclones could gain. The big boon to Baylor’s success was a +12 margin in the total rebounds column, grabbing 40% of their own misses.
Gillespie led the team with 11 boards, while Vital and redshirt-junior guard MaCio Teague followed with seven and eight, respectively. Gillespie said postgame that Vital’s rebounding cleared the way for himself to get going.
“[Vital] was rebounding like a monster in that first half,” Gillespie said. “I think he kind of drew a lot of the guys to him, and he opened up a lot for me. I think what’s nice about having his interior presence is that … when he starts boarding really well, guys start looking to box him out and that opens up more rebound for me and then vice versa.”
With three of their next four games away from the Ferrell Center, the Bears will get back to work on the road against Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. The game will be aired on ESPN2 and streamed on the ESPN app.