As much at it is used as a cliche in college basketball, there was no way getting around how Iowa State's top two scoring threats played against the No. 1 Baylor Bears on Wednesday night in front of a sold out Hilton Coliseum: It was a tale of two halves.
If you walked out of Hilton in the first half, it was clear why Iowa State walked into the half down 33-26 — spoiler alert, it was because of Tyrese Haliburton and Rasir Bolton.
Iowa State found itself down just seven points thanks to a three-point clinic by Bolton. Bolton couldn't seem to miss in the first half, knocking down four of his five three point shots, while the rest of the team was poor from beyond the arc as usual, shooting a combined 0-5 from deep in the first half.
Haliburton was right there with him, scoring eight points of his own with five rebounds.
The rest of the Cyclones shot 1-13 combined in the first half, as Haliburton and Bolton carried the scoring on their backs, scoring 22 of Iowa State's 26 first-half points.
The Cyclones' leading scorers showed how much they really mean to Iowa State Wednesday night, for better or for worse. The latter would show itself in the second half against the Bears, leading to the Cyclones losing 67-53.
Coach Steve Prohm said it himself after the 14 point loss: the Cyclones are in need of a third consistent scoring option besides the two sophomore guards, especially when they lose their shot for stretches.
"We need a third guy," Prohm said. "The way people are guarding [Haliburton], I mean, you saw we had some open looks in the first half, we gotta make some of those; [Rasir] is 4-8 but the rest of the team is 0-9."
Bolton and Haliburton shot 1-10 combined with seven minutes gone by in the second half, while the rest of the team was on the receiving end of a 17-2 run that spanned over seven minutes since the technical on Steve Prohm with 12:10 left in the second half.
Haliburton and Bolton combined to shoot 3-13 in the second half with 14 combined points thanks to Haliburton going to the free throw line seven times.
Haliburton knew that the Bears would increase their pressure on both him and Bolton for the rest of the night, knowing that containing the two dynamic shooters would put the Cyclones in a search for offense.
The first half hot start for the two leading scorers wouldn't last long, and Haliburton knew it would get tougher and tougher to find shots.
"They started picking up the pressure as we got hot, as any good team will do," Haliburton said.
In response to his coach wanting a third scoring option alongside him and Bolton, Haliburton said, while a consistent piece would make life easier, the third option has been there before, but not as consistently as the team needs.
"Today was a rough game for everybody; usually, we have a third guy clicking, whether its [Solomon Young] or George [Conditt] or Prentiss [Nixon], so we'll figure it out," Haliburton said.
It seemed as though Haliburton and Bolton would not be as effective from the get-go of the second half, but the Cyclones were able to hide the struggles of the two guards thanks to a 4-6 shooting start of the second half.
That success would not continue for virtually all of the second half, as the rest of the team shot 6-24 from the floor.
With Haliburton and Bolton not being able to translate their first half shooting into the second stanza, the Cyclones were left to just take the physicality as four of the Bears finished in double figures.
Bolton said his shots were falling in the first half thanks to his approach of going after the defense and knowing what was there for him to take.
His mindset when he was on fire from three in the first half was simple — keep staying aggressive.
"Just staying aggressive and trying to win," Bolton said.
The second half would be a different story for Bolton, shooting 2-7 from the field and 0-3 from three. Bolton would try to either drive to the basket in between defenders or come around a screen hoping to have a big release window, but instead, the Bears surrounded him and forced him to give away the ball.
Bolton and Haliburton both finished in double figures with 19 and 17 points, respectively. But the Cyclones' two leading men and the Cyclones as a whole went on a drought from the field for seven minutes, costing them another shot at taking down Baylor.
For Haliburton, the shots not falling and the lack of effectiveness within the offense was not the biggest concern.
Haliburton, Bolton and Prohm all said post-game that Iowa State needs to get tougher on offense and defense. Boxing-out, taking charges, making open shots, becoming a consistent third scoring threat and grabbing rebounds all led to Haliburton expressing his frustration with how Iowa State has been unable to play tougher on both ends of the floor than its opponent.
Even with both him and Bolton being bottled up for the second half, the toughness on the offensive end is something Haliburton wants fixed sooner rather than later.
"I don't think it's what we're capable of, I think it's what we are willing to do," Haliburton said. "We work on it everyday, if we can't get that together, that's on us; it's embarrassing, I hope people get sick of this, cause I'm tired of this shit and we'll just keep trying to figure it out."