WACO, Texas — The Baylor Bears can sleep a little easier.
Baylor, on the NCAA Tournament bubble, scored the game’s final 13 points and notched a 74-61 victory over the 16th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones on Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.
With just over two minutes remaining in a tie game, Baylor guard Brady Heslip pump-faked to get Iowa State guard Naz Long in the air behind the 3-point arc. Heslip dribbled a step to his left and nailed a 3-pointer that gave the Bears a 64-61 lead.
Heslip, a senior playing in his final home game at Baylor, finished with 18 points. He shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range, and he hit the big shots Baylor needed.
“Best senior day ever,” Heslip said. “You guys don’t know how happy I am right now. All I wanted to do was win. This is the best feeling I’ve had in this gym.”
After Heslip’s tiebreaking trey, Iowa State committed its 13th turnover on the ensuing trip down the floor. Baylor guard Kenny Chery followed with a jumper that gave the Bears a five-point lead with 1:27 remaining. Iowa State would not recover, and it didn’t score over the final 4:09.
The Cyclones finished with 14 turnovers.
“Turnovers have hurt us,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It was unfortunate. We didn’t make the plays down the stretch.”
Baylor (20-10, 8-9 Big 12) desperately needed the win, or at least that was how the Bears played as they scratched and clawed in the second half. Seniors Cory Jefferson and Heslip made sure the Bears got the victory.
“You can’t get too much more inspired, knowing it’s senior night,” Jefferson said. “You want to win on the final night in your home gym, and we’re still fighting to get in the big dance. We had a lot of reasons to be inspired.”
By defeating Iowa State, the Bears earned their third victory over a Top 25 opponent this season.
Jefferson finished with a game-high 21 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He played a vital role in holding Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim, the Big 12’s leading scorer, to six.
“Cory and (center Isaiah Austin) really were active,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They contested a lot of shots at the rim.”
Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane finished with 20 points, though he scored just three in the second half. Cyclones forward Dustin Hogue had 12, but Ejim and guard Georges Niang combined for only 10.
“Really, we struggled on the inside,” Hoiberg said. “Georges got two fouls early, and that hurts us a lot. Georges never really got in a rhythm tonight.”
Drew said he believes, having poured over past tournament entries, that Tuesday’s win over Iowa State puts Baylor in excellent position to grasp an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
“You can’t hold losses against Top 25 teams against a team in the top conference,” Drew said. “We have seven top-50 wins now, and no one has ever been left out with seven top-50 wins. You have to be thankful for the league’s strength.”
Heslip boosted the Bears to a six-point lead when he hit his third trey of the second half at the 16:15 mark.
Iowa State (22-7, 10-7) battled back throughout the second half and hit 12 3-pointers in the game, but it wasn’t enough. The Cyclones dropped their second consecutive Big 12 road game against an unranked foe.
The Cyclones committed five turnovers early in the first half as they struggled to pass the ball in the interior against Baylor’s zone defense. However, Iowa State remedied the turnover problems by shooting over the Bears’ zone.
Kane hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, both on assists from Long, and then Long pitched in with another trey to put Iowa State ahead 18-12.
Iowa State hit eight 3-pointers in the first half, led by Kane’s 4-of-6 performance from beyond the arc. Kane finished the first half with 17 points.
Baylor’s backcourt eventually heated up. Bears guard Gary Franklin hit a 3-pointer to edge the Bears ahead by a point with 1:17 left before halftime. Iowa State answered with a 3-pointer from Hogue. Heslip was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and hit all three free shots, giving the Bears a 36-35
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