KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After missing the regular season finale last Saturday against Kansas with a bruised right toe, Baylor guard Makai Mason made it clear that he wanted to play in Thursday’s Big 12 tournament opener against Iowa State.
Since injuring the toe in early February, Mason has played in nine of Baylor’s 11 games. But the graduate transfer from Yale didn’t want to miss any postseason games.
“Yeah, he wanted to play,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “And there’s no doubt he’ll be in the NCAA tournament. Up to this point, it’s really been a measurement of his pain tolerance. We always knew that once we got to the postseason and the NCAA tournament, he was full-go. So that’s exciting because now as a coach you don’t have to worry about, ‘Do we have someone, do we not have somebody?’ And you can focus on, ‘All right, this is who we have, let’s come up with a game plan based on that.’”
Mason came out hot in the 83-66 loss to the Cyclones as he hit three early 3-pointers, but had trouble finding his range as the game progressed. He finished with 14 points on five of 15 field goals while hitting four of eight 3-pointers and dishing out five assists.
Now Mason will get another week to rest his toe in hopes that his health will improve for the NCAA tournament.
Cyclones shut down Butler
Baylor freshman guard Jared Butler showed a lot of savvy and poise as he erupted for a career-high 31 points in a 78-70 loss to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, one of the toughest venues in college basketball.
But he went cold against Iowa State as he hit just two of nine shots and finished with four points and two assists in 25 minutes. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts, but Drew believes his struggles simply show his inexperience.
“That’s part of experience, getting used to playing multiple good games back to back to back,” Drew said. “Because what happens is you’ve got to handle all the success, people in your ear. Jared’s well-grounded, but then you have to handle the other team’s really excited to play against you and guard you. So now you’re facing another team that’s just seen a bunch of clips of you scoring 31 at Kansas.”
BU’s Big 12 tournament struggles continue vs. ISU
Following Thursday’s loss, the Bears are now 1-4 in Big 12 tournament games against the Cyclones with the only win coming in 2001.
Iowa State beat the Bears in the 2014 Big 12 tournament with a 74-65 decision in the championship game. The Bears bounced back to reach the Sweet 16 that season, and now hope they can get back on track for a run in this year’s NCAA tournament.
“We’ve just got to get back to having fun and loving this game again,” said forward Mario Kegler, who led the Bears with 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds. “People are down or just aren’t coming to play. We have to get back to loving basketball and just leaving it all out there.”
Drew says team not playing poorly
Despite a four-game losing streak, Drew doesn’t believe the Bears are playing bad basketball.
The 17-point loss to the Cyclones was the most lopsided in the four-game skid. Road losses to Kansas and Kansas State were both by single digits, and Baylor dropped a 67-64 decision to Oklahoma State in the final home game on March 6.
“There are certain times when you go on a four-game losing streak and you think the world’s coming to an end because everybody’s upset, everybody’s frustrated,” Drew said. “Then there are times when you go on a four-game losing streak, it’s like ‘Really? We lost four?’ Because you’re not playing terrible. I thought Iowa State had its ‘A’ game and I thought we had an average game. And an average game isn’t going to beat a great ‘A’ game Iowa State team.”