Iowa State picked up a key win on Wednesday night, as they went into Waco and knocked off Baylor for the second time this season, 87-82.
Tyrus McGee — the nation’s most dangerous sixth-man — finished with 22 points off the bench while Melvin Ejim chipped in with 20 points and 12 boards while the Cyclones did what the Cyclones do: they spread the floor, they got up and down the court, and they used their athleticism and versatility to create matchups problems and get themselves good looks from the perimeter.
Fred Hoiberg has, once again, built himself a dangerous ballclub out in Ames. Six players average between 9.3 points and 14.8 points. With the exception of leading scorer Will Clyburn, five of those six shoot at least 35.6% from three, with McGee, at 45.0%, leading the way. They run the floor, they don’t even pretend to worry about defending and, on the nights when those three-balls are dropping, the Cyclones can put up a lot of points in a hurry.
But what made the win over Baylor so important is that it was the first time this season that the Cyclones have beaten a team not named TCU or UMKC — both of whom rank outside the top 240 in the RPI — on the road.
Last week, Iowa State lost at Texas in double-overtime, an ugly loss even when you factor in Myck Kabongo’s return. Last month, they lost at Texas Tech, who is thankful that TCU joined the conference so that they would be able to avoid being the laughing stock of the league. It’s those two results, combined with a middling non-conference schedule, that have the Cyclones sitting in a position where the NCAA tournament is anything but a lock and where they are two games behind both Kansas and Kansas State for the Big 12 lead.
The good news?
This win probably keeps them on the right side of the bubble for now. But more importantly, Iowa State has a bit of a backloaded league schedule. They still host Kansas and Oklahoma State, and they’ll get one more shot at a marquee road win when they visit Norman to take on the Sooners.
The Cyclones will have their chances to get into the dance.
And, if you’re like me and observing without a rooting interest, you want that to happen.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.