No. 7 Baylor will aim to avenge a 15-point loss to Iowa State earlier this season when it closes the regular season with a home matchup against the slumping Cyclones in Big 12 play on Saturday in Waco, Texas.
Iowa State’s 77-62 victory on Dec. 31 came when the Cyclones were flying high and it also marked the start of a three-game slide for the Bears.
Now the story is vastly different as Baylor (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) has won 12 of its last 15 games to move into a three-way tie for second place. Meanwhile, Iowa State (17-12, 8-9) has dropped four straight and eight of 10 to fall into sixth place.
The Cyclones have fallen out of the Top 25 and dismissed third-leading scorer Caleb Grill earlier this week for “a failure to meet the program’s expectations.”
After home losses to Oklahoma and West Virginia, the Cyclones appear to be in a state of decay.
“We should be disappointed. We do expect more from ourselves. We do have higher standards,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “That disappointment should lead us to working really hard. … We got to be better.”
The dismissal of Grill occurred Wednesday after he averaged 2.8 points on 2-of-17 shooting over his past four appearances.
Grill, who averaged 9.5 points and made 53 3-point baskets overall, said on social media that he has been battling mental health challenges. He also said his dismissal was due to verbal comments.
“Unfortunately, I said something that I regret which has cost me the opportunity to finish out my dream at Iowa State,” Grill wrote. “I hope that all the players and Iowa State fans can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
Grill made five 3-pointers and scored 18 points in Iowa State’s impressive win over Baylor on New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile, the Bears could be without leading scorer Keyonte George (ankle) for the second straight game.
George, who averages 16.3 points, was injured during Saturday’s 81-72 win over then-No. 8 Texas. He sat out Monday’s 74-68 road win over Oklahoma State.
The freshman standout has 12 efforts of 20 or more points and is one of three Bears with at least 70 3-pointers. George has a team-best 72, while Adam Flagler (15.4 points per game) has sank 71 and LJ Cryer (14.7) has 70.
Without George, Baylor featured a balanced attack against Oklahoma State as Cryer and reserve Dale Bonner each scored 15 points, Jalen Bridges tallied 14 and Flagler added 13.
Bonner also came off the bench against Texas to score 13 points after George was injured. It represents his first back-to-back double-digit outings in two seasons with Baylor.
“Dale, another tremendous game,” Bears coach Scott Drew said of Bonner. “Gave us a huge lift.”
Baylor also lost big man Langston Love early in the first half with a scratched cornea on his left eye. His status for Saturday is unknown.
“Hopefully, we can get Langston’s eye right. He could only see with one eye,” Drew said.
Iowa State’s win over the Bears earlier this season was just its second in the past 11 meetings. Gabe Kalscheur fueled the Cyclones with 23 points and five treys.
Kalscheur has made a team-high 62 3-pointers and his 12.8 scoring average is second on the squad behind Jalen Holmes (13.1).
Kalscheur scored a season-best 26 points and hit five 3-pointers in Monday’s 72-69 loss to West Virginia.
–Field Level Media