So, that wasn’t fun on Monday. It’s a different day today and with that, another chance to get the season moving in the right direction.
The Iowa State Cyclones have bounced back from two straight UGLY performances to get to 5-2 on the season. It’s been spurred by the switch to junior, Nick Weiler-Babb at point with two other point guard-like players, freshman Lindell Wigginton and senior Donovan Jackson, manning the wings. In other words, they’re going to throw out the type of lineup which has been the Hawkeyes’ kryptonite thus far.
Not only do they possess off-the-bounce skills, they’re able to shoot: all three are shooting over 42% from three. It feels like a broken record to say Iowa will need to guard the arc to keep this game close. It will be tough because Babb has excelled at finding the open man as point guard. He has averaged 9 assists a game since the move.
Down low, ISU will likely start Jeff Beverly, who possesses the same size, though not skill, as Deonte Burton. He’ll cycle through the post with fellow graduate transfer Hans Brase, sophomore Solomon Young, and redshirt freshman Cameron Lard. Young, who starts, and Lard, have shown some prowess defensively. In limited minutes - Lard has played only 17 per game in 5 games - he has blocked nearly 15% of shots taken while on the floor.
So, what does Iowa need to do to win this game:
- Move the ball, and themselves: After starting the season strong in this area, Iowa has averaged only 14.6 assists on 25.8 field goals (56.6%), during the last six games. They’ll have to improve this by adhering to the principles of the motion offense with passes and, you guessed it, motion, to get themselves and others open. Iowa simply doesn’t have anyone good enough to go 1 on 5, offensively. With someone like Tyler Cook, post ups are going to be part of the offense, but it’s imperative to move around him before and after entry passes. Too many times, opponents are able to swoop in behind him and pick off the lazy pass over a fronting defender. There are enough good players who can make open shots on this team (Iowa is shooting better from 3 and 2 than Iowa State), it’s just a matter of getting the looks.
- Show something on defense: Fran McCaffery is not going to flip the defensive switch between Monday and tonight and turn this group into a lights out bunch. However, they be better than they have been during this stretch. Iowa State is a bunch who hasn’t played much together (their minutes continuity is 329th in the country) so there will be some hiccups on their side. Nick Weiler-Babb won’t have the ball every second they’re on offense, though they’ll try - he’s averaging 37+ minutes a game.
- Display passion: It’s a rivalry game. Iowa needs to act like it. By my count, the Hawkeyes have 5 more players than the Cyclones in last year’s bout. There will be ebbs and flows so everyone needs to keep their heads, weather the storm, and do the little things. That means: diving for loose balls, crashing the glass, hustling back on defense, maybe getting in someone’s grill a little bit (cc: Cordell Pemsl). No stats are kept in those areas but they’re the pieces of the game Iowa needs to win if they want to come out of Hilton Coliseum with a victory. Neither of these teams is good enough to coast to a win.
GO HAWKS. BEAT STATE.