The top-ten ranked Iowa State men’s basketball team was dealt a couple of blows back to reality in the last three days, suffering two straight losses to Oklahoma and Kansas. Compiled with the women’s first loss of the season to Oklahoma State, plenty of fans are starting to believe that this is just the beginning of a complete landslide. Instead, this should give both players and fans the message that the Big 12 will be a complete grind until mid-March.
Jan 13, 2014; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forwardDustin Hogue
(22) reacts during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Kansas beat Iowa State 77-70. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State played their worst game defensively against Oklahoma and had one of their all-time worst shooting performances under Fred Hoiberg against Kansas. Those were the biggest factors in both losses that the Cyclones still had chances to win near the end of the game.
Shooting is always going to be hit-and-miss, and that’s what fans all signed up for under Hoiberg. That’s why teams that rely on shooting, especially from the perimeter, don’t make it far in the NCAA Tournament. All it takes is one bad night and that team is bounced; Iowa State has had two straight terrible games from 3-point range going 10-of-51.
The Cyclones miss a player like Tyrus McGee last season, who was able to come off the bench and almost always jump-started the team’s long range shooting. There were plenty of moments when Iowa State started off cold from 3-point range last year. Unfortunately, that trend has started to stick through the entire game.
It’s going to take someone other than the big four to become a pure shooter. Naz Long showed some promise early and was able to hit three shots from downtown against the Sooners. If he can become consistent, then he could be that sixth man off the bench like McGee or even one of the starting guards.
Long looks more comfortable off the bench after playing just 16 minutes and going 0-of-2 from the field when he started against the Jayhawks. That will require freshman Matt Thomas to step up his game and create better shots for himself to stay in the starting lineup.
Another problem area for Iowa State has been rebounding. Since the win over Boise State, the Cyclones haven’t been able to win the rebounding battle. Size has finally caught up with them, and they rank 318th nationally in rebounds given up per game (38.4).
Something that has to register with both fans and players is getting outrebounded, especially in the Big 12, is going to happen more often than not. No team is made perfect, and if Iowa State can excel at their strengths then they can overcome their weaknesses.
Shooting around 30 percent from the floor and missing 21 3-pointers obviously puts the Cyclones at a disadvantage. An even more surprising stat is losing that game by just seven points.
Doom and gloom is always one of the first things Iowa State fans look toward, but that’s not the case with this team yet. There’s too much talent, there’s too good of coaching staff, and unlike last season, they know how to win close games and overcome adversity.
The Big 12 is going to be a grind every single night. These past three days is just a reminder, and Iowa State will be rewarded or shunned with how they respond after taking their first punches.