AMES, Iowa — Baylor’s struggling offense is becoming more than just a worry. It’s become a major issue as the Bears have plummeted to the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
With the Bears scoring just two field goals in the final seven minutes, Iowa State pulled away down the stretch for a 75-65 win before a packed house of 14,283 Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum.
After its second road loss of the week following Tuesday’s 57-54 loss to No. 2 West Virginia, Baylor fell to 1-4 and is in a three-way tie for last in the Big 12 with Iowa State and TCU.
The loss to the Cyclones (10-6) was the first for the Bears (11-6) against an unranked team this season. The Bears will make a quick turnaround with Monday’s 8 p.m. game against Oklahoma State (12-5, 2-3) at the Ferrell Center.
“It’s the Big 12 and we’re in a hole right now,” said Baylor freshman forward Tristan Clark. “Every game is a must win for us. We came out ready to play but we didn’t hit shots late in the game. They wanted it more than us.”
The Bears came in shooting a Big 12-low 41.3 percent in conference play, and shot even worse against the Cyclones by hitting 34.3 percent. With Manu Lecomte missing all seven 3-point attempts, Baylor hit just four of 18 beyond the arc.
While Baylor won the rebounding battle 46-41, the Cyclones pulled down numerous key offensive boards in the final minutes.
“We’ve got to shoot better than 34 percent and get second-chance points,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew in his postgame radio interview. “Down the stretch, we didn’t get second-chance opportunities and they did. I thought we had some really good looks, but we’ve got to get offensive rebounds.”
Freshman guard Lindell Wigginton was on fire for the Cyclones as he hit five of 10 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points. Point guard Nick Weiler-Babb also enjoyed a superb all-around game with 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
“Wigginton got separation all day long,” Drew said. “We recruited him and we knew he’d be really good. He’s consistent. He’s not just a one-hit wonder, he’s getting buckets.”
Clark matched his career high with 16 points while grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds and also blocking three shots. Jo Lual-Acuil finished with 13 points and seven boards for the Bears while King McClure also scored 13 points as he hit three of five 3-pointers.
But Lecomte’s two for 12 overall shooting hurt the Bears. After shooting 45.7 percent in nonconference play, Lecomte has shot 23.7 percent in the Big 12.
“Manu has had some good looks,” Drew said. “At the end of the day, you’ll go through shooting slumps, and that’s what he’s in. But eventually he’s going to make them. When he misses, we’ve got to be there to get rebounds.”
After trailing 34-27 at halftime, the Bears put themselves in position to win when Lecomte hit a pair of free throws and Lual-Acuil scored on a putback to give the Bears a 56-53 lead with 7:49 remaining.
But the Cyclones answered with an 11-2 run to take the lead for good.
Wigginton and Weiler-Babb started the streak by each hitting a pair of free throws. Wigginton followed with a 3-pointer and Weiler-Babb nailed an outside shot before Cameron Lard scored on a layup to give the Cyclones a 64-58 lead with 4:26 remaining.
The Bears tried to fight back as Clark scored on a putback and McClure hit a pair of free throws to cut Iowa State’s lead to 66-62 with 2:12 remaining. But Wigginton came through again for the Cyclones as he drained a 3-pointer to push Iowa State’s lead to 69-62 with 1:36 left in the game.
Lecomte drew a foul from Lard on a 3-point attempt and nailed all three free throws to cut Iowa State’s lead to 69-65 with 1:21 remaining. But the Cyclones scored the final six points as Weiler-Babb hit four free throws and Wigginton capped the win with a breakaway slam with 21 seconds remaining.