Big 12 battle of ranked foes pits Bears against Cyclones

11:37 AM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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Ames, IA ( - A battle of top-10 teams is on tap for Tuesday night, as the ninth-ranked Iowa State Cyclones play host to the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears in a Big 12 Conference showdown at Hilton Coliseum.

Baylor has been outstanding this season with wins in 12 of 13 contests, with its only loss coming in the championship game of the Maui Invitational against a still-unbeaten Syracuse, 74-67. The Bears have recorded signature wins over Colorado (72-60) and Kentucky (67-62), both on neutral floors, and are currently riding a six-game winning streak. They closed out non-conference play on Friday night with an easy 80-50 win over Savannah State.

Iowa State, meanwhile, is one of the few teams this season to get off to a better start than Baylor, as it is one of just six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I. With the Cyclones' 73-62 victory at Texas Tech in their Big 12 opener on Saturday afternoon, they matched a school record for longest winning streak at 13, meeting the mark set during the 1999-2000 season.

The Cyclones hold a 15-9 advantage over the Bears in the all-time series, which includes wins in three straight meetings.

The Bears put together their third straight victory of at least 25 points in their most recent contest by outshooting Savannah State from the field, 52.9 percent to 33.3 percent, and outscoring it at the free-throw line, 19-2. Taurean Prince logged 24 minutes off the bench and led the team with 15 points on 4-of-6 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line. Cory Jefferson tallied 13 points and three blocks, Rico Gathers registered 11 points and nine rebounds and Isaiah Austin scored 11 points as well.

Baylor has grown accustomed to dominating on both ends of the floor this season, as it shoots 50.4 percent from the field for 78.8 ppg while allowing just 64.5 ppg on less than 39 percent shooting. It also helps its cause by attacking the glass, as it ranks seventh in the nation with a +10.1 rebounding margin. The balanced effort is led by Jefferson (14.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who shoots 57 percent from the field. Kenny Chery (11.5 ppg) has made 93.1 percent of his free-throw tries, Brady Heslip (10.9 ppg) has made 35 3-pointers at a 47.9 percent clip, and Austin (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) blocks three shots per contest.

The Cyclones ran out to a 15-point lead at the half of their Big 12 opener at Texas Tech and never surrendered the advantage in the second stanza en route to the 11-point victory. They have seen much more impressive field goal shooting efforts (.423), but they had no problem capturing the victory thanks to a strong showing from the foul line (24-of-29), and committing just five turnovers didn't hurt either. Georges Niang led the squad in both points (17) and rebounds (seven). Melvin Ejim scored 16 points, DeAndre Kane posted 15 points, six assists and four steals and Monte Morris came off the bench to net 11 points.

On the season, very few teams can match what Iowa State does offensively, as it shoots 48.8 percent from the field (including 9.0 3-pointers per game at a 36.2 percent clip) for 87.0 ppg, which is tied for eighth-best in the nation. Its effort on the defensive end of the floor (.390, 67.2 ppg) have been outstanding as well. Ejim (17.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Dustin Hogue (12.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) make up an imposing forward duo. Niang brings 15.9 ppg to the table, and Kane stuffs the stat sheet with 15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 6.1 apg. Each of ISU's double-digit scorers shoots at least 49 percent from the field.

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