Top-ranked Baylor holds on to beat No. 8 Iowa State 77-72

National Sports

Iowa State forward Aljaz Kunc (5) works to steal the ball from Baylor guard James Akinjo (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Ames. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Baylor has a new cast of players, but its depth and defense showed up as usual in one of the most anticipated games of the season so far.

James Akinjo scored 16 points, LJ Cryer had 10 of his 13 in the second half, and the top-ranked Bears beat No. 8 Iowa State 77-72 on Saturday for the Cyclones’ first loss.

Baylor (13-0, 1-0 Big 12) never trailed in only the fourth Division I matchup of 12-0 teams in 40 years and the first game between top-10 teams at Hilton Coliseum since 2014.

The defending national champions got the tough game they expected and had to overcome 19 turnovers and foul trouble.

“First and foremost, it shows we have a great rotation,” coach Scott Drew said. “Different people stepped up at different times, and you need that because not everybody has great shooting nights and great games.”

The defending national champion Bears extended their win streak to 19 games and are among three remaining unbeaten teams. Southern California and Colorado State are the others.

Tristan Enaruna scored a career-high 23 points for the Cyclones (12-1, 0-1), who were off to the second-best start in program history under first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger after winning two games last season.

The Cyclones managed to turn in a game effort on a day they shot 1 of 14 on 3-pointers and Gabe Kalscheur, their second-leading scorer for the season, was held without a point and committed six of the Cyclones’ 17 turnovers.

“The areas we talk about after every game, when they show up to the best of our ability, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” Otzelberger said. “Our ball pressure wasn’t at the level if needed to be, we got outrebounded and our ball toughness wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Izaiah Brockington added 18 points for the Cyclones, who dropped their 24th straight Big 12 game, the longest conference losing streak among Power Five teams.

“We understood the magnitude of the game,” Otzelberger said. “What I’m more interested in with our group is how we respond, how we bounce back, how we come to the practice floor, how intentional we are and how excited we are to continue improving and getting better.”

Baylor was up 41-33 at halftime and built its lead to 14 points in the second half. The Cyclones wouldn’t fold, cutting it to five points three times in the last three minutes.

“It was really loud,” Carr said. “Every time they made a big play, you could barely hear yourself talk. It was really energetic in the building.”

The Bears had to get creative when big men Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua got into foul trouble. Forwards Jeremy Sochan and Kendall Brown each played some center for the first time this season. Sochan had seven rebounds to go with his 12 points, and Brown had five boards.

Adam Flagler and Akinjo each hit a pair of free throws in the last 30 seconds to hold off the Cyclones and send Baylor to a ninth straight win against a top-10 opponent.

“Big 12 road games are very tough and very hard to win, and whenever you get one you’re blessed,” Drew said. “We could have executed better down the stretch, but other than that couldn’t be more pleased.”

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: This was only the second true road game for the Bears, and they had an answer every time Iowa State looked ready to make a run.

Iowa State: The Cyclones played Baylor closer than any of the Bears’ opponents this season, and it doesn’t get any easier. Four of their next five games are against ranked teams.

STAT PACK

Iowa State freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter had 10 of his 12 points in the second half. … Baylor had 12 offensive rebounds, the 17th straight game the Bears have had at least 10. … ISU outscored the Bears 21-10 at the free-throw line. … The Bears’ 29-4 Big 12 record over two-plus seasons is the best conference record of any Power Five team. … Baylor is 57-2 over three seasons when leading at halftime.

UP NEXT

Baylor: Hosts Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Iowa State: Hosts No. 25 Texas Tech on Wednesday.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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