Sports

Baylor rebounds in convincing style to throttle Iowa State

WACO -- Forget about the possibility of a February freefall toward the middle of the pack by Baylor in the Big 12 men's basketball standings.

Scratch any ideas about a continued shooting slump for the ninth-ranked Bears as well.

Baylor rebounded with a vengeance Monday from two consecutive losses marked by dismal shooting percentages to pound Iowa State 79-64 on a night when each of the Bears' top seven scorers made at least half of their shots from the field.

Six of the seven blew away that figure in helping Baylor connect on 60 percent of its shots, the Bears' highest percentage of the season against a Big 12 foe. Baylor (22-4, 9-4 in Big 12) topped out at 72 percent during the second half, hitting 21 of 29 from the field while pulling away from the Cyclones (18-8, 8-5) to maintain sole possession of third place in the league standings.

Best of all, there were Perry Jones III sightings early, often and in clutch moments. The Bears' mercurial scoring leader buried 8 of 13 shots, finishing with a game-high 18 points capped by three monster dunks on lobs from teammates.

Jones, a sophomore from Duncanville, had as many dunks Monday as he had field goals during last week's high-profile losses to No. 4 Kansas (68-54) and No. 3 Missouri (72-57). Jones posted a 3-of-20 shooting line against the Big 12 co-leaders, with his 15 percent accuracy rate drawing most of the attention for a team that posted its two lowest shooting percentages of the conference season against KU (37.0) and Mizzou (36.2).

But he found the range Monday, leading a parade of four double-digit scorers from a Bears' front line that combined for 57 points, 17 rebounds and lots of frustration for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.

"A lot of people criticize Perry [when he struggles offensively]," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "But some days, the ball goes in. Some days, it doesn't."

Drew said no one in the Baylor locker room has ever questioned Jones' effort, which was on full display Monday. He grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and his defensive effort played a role in forcing seven turnovers from Iowa State forward Royce White, the Cyclones' season leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.

"I got back in the groove," Jones said of Monday's effort.

So did several of his teammates, helping Baylor put the brakes on its second two-game losing streak of the season and preventing any further loss of confidence after last week's double-digit losses to fellow top 10 teams.

"We definitely needed to bounce back," said forward Quincy Miller, who added 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting. "Our confidence was still up, but that was a very hard blow. We came out and got the win [against ISU], so we're back on track."

Drew agreed after watching two key seniors -- forwards Quincy Acy (11 points, 5 rebounds) and Anthony Jones (12 points, 5 rebounds) -- help right the listing ship by combining to make 10 of 15 shots while offering some well-timed words of encouragement to younger teammates.

"No matter what you do in life, after you struggle, everyone's going to face adversity," Drew said. "It's really how you get up from it. We've had outstanding leadership this entire year, and I thought they did a great job getting us ready to play. The guys responded and played well."

Hoiberg credited an assist to the Cyclones, who could have passed the Bears for third place in the league standings with a victory but lacked the defensive intensity to make it happen.

"Our effort was pathetic," Hoiberg said. "I thought we had a great chance to come in here and get this one... but we had a very poor effort on the defensive end of the floor."

Baylor took full advantage, scoring the first seven points of the game and never letting ISU draw closer than three points at 24-21. A 6-0 run during a two-minute stretch of the second half capped by a Jones layup gave the Bears a 58-46 lead with 8:44 remaining that Baylor kept in double digits for the remainder of the contest.

With the victory, Baylor enhanced its case for being a possible No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament when at-large bids are distributed in March. More importantly, the Bears avoided taking another step backward in the Big 12 race when facing a quality opponent after a difficult week.

How big was Monday's victory?

"It was very important," Jones said.

It will loom even larger if the Bears can turn it into a winning streak now that the team's shooting slump is in the rearview mirror.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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