AMES — The story of No. 8 Iowa State's 77-72 loss to No. 1 Baylor on Saturday was a tale of execution — or lack thereof for the Cyclones.
T.J. Otzelberger and the undefeated Cyclones opened Big 12 play against the defending national champions at Hilton Coliseum in front of another boisterous sell-out crowd, but a departure from the habits that got the Cyclones this far cost themselves the win.
And that's where the biggest disappointment comes from for Otzelberger and his group.
“Felt like the same areas we talk about out there every game, when those show up to the best of our ability, I don’t think anybody can beat us," Otzelberger said after the Cyclones' first loss of the season.
“Today, our ball pressure wasn't at the level we needed to be, we got out-rebounded and our ball toughness wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Before the season began, the thought of opening league play against the defending national champions and presumptive top-25 team seemed like a scary idea. But Saturday was about as close as any team has come to taking down Baylor.
That's why the loss stings, especially for Iowa State guard Izaiah Brockington.
The senior transfer from Penn State finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists in the loss. But Brockington saw how close Iowa State was to finishing the job and continuing its surprising start to the season, but chances were squandered too often to make that happen.
A lapse in execution is one thing against opponents from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the best the Big 12 has to offer. But Brockington said postgame the gap between the Cyclones and Bears isn't as big as some might have thought going into Saturday.
“Not as far as everybody thinks," Brockington said when asked about the gap between Iowa State and Baylor. "I feel like we could have came out with a win today. That’s a really good team. They made tough shots, made big-time shots, they rebounded and we just didn’t execute in the things that we wanted to do.”
Now that the first loss of the season is out of the way, Brockington and Otzelberger are anticipating what kind of response Iowa State has on the practice court.
After giving up 17 turnovers, and being out-rebounded 32-30, the Cyclones are ready to fine-tune their details in order to get back in the win column on Wednesday vs No. 25 Texas Tech.
But sometimes, you lose to the better team. You can't win most games if the other team executes better for longer stretches. Saturday was a prime example for the Cyclones.
Baylor's bench out-scored Iowa State's 29-12, with the Bears never allowing Iowa State to hold a lead during the game.
“It definitely felt like we knew what each other’s game plans were coming in," Brockington said. "It really was about who executed it better.”
A bright spot amidst the rocky offensive performance from the Cyclones was Tristan Enaruna. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with a career-high 23 points on 8-11 shooting along with eight rebounds.
Saturday was the first of likely many reminders of what the Big 12 will present game after game. Coming over from the Kansas Jayhawks, Enaruna said post-game the Cyclones understand what it'll take to come out on the winning side going forward.
Shocking no one, the answer for Iowa State from Enaruna's viewpoint is execution.
“They’re good a team, but I feel like we’re a good team too. We just as good of players as they got. Today, we just didn’t do a good job of executing," Enaruna said.
“I feel like we’ve been preparing for these type of games ever since the start.”