What: Iowa State (11-4, 1-1) vs. West Virginia (8-7, 1-2)
When: Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m.
Where: Hilton Coliseum
TV: ESPN 2
Oh what a difference a week makes.
Last Wednesday, Iowa State getting ready to play its second game in 22 days – that game taking place in historic Allen Fieldhouse against the then-sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
At that point in time, Iowa State fans didn’t really know what to expect from their team. All non-conference season long, the Cyclones struggled at protecting the basketball. It is a team that turned the ball over an astounding 23 times vs. Florida Gulf Coast and 18 against lowly Alabama A&M.
Could Fred Hoiberg pull off some sort of a miracle and have his team ready to go against KU? And even if he did, how bad would it be? Many of you, including myself, were curious as to what this team would show once Big 12 play began.
Well last week, Big 12 play most certainly began and the Cyclones decided to show up. There was the overtime loss to Kansas – a loss that undoubtedly still stings today to a passionate fan base. But with that loss came confidence and determination.
Yes – the same team that was a turnover machine in December only gave the ball away five times in a 20-point rout of Texas on Saturday.
With what appears to be a down Big 12 and an Iowa State team that can put points up in a hurry, optimism is high right now in Ames. Up next is a home date, tonight, with Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers. Here’s a look at Iowa State’s opponent.
Breaking down the Mountaineers…
I interviewed Iowa State’s associate head coach T.J. Otzelberger on Monday morning. I attended Fred Hoiberg’s weekly press conference as well. I asked both men the same question:
“When you think of a Bob Huggins coached basketball team, what comes to your mind?"
“Toughness,” said Hoiberg. “The team certainly takes on the identity of their coach. Bob’s teams have always been so physical. They run their offense and cut extremely hard. The biggest thing that they do is offensive rebound. They are one of the most efficient, physical offensive rebounding teams that we will play this year.”
Otzelberger’s answer was very, very similar.
“Physical,” said Otzelberger. “They are always a physical team. He always has great rebounding teams. He is a coach that really instills toughness in his guys. They are going to come out and try to punch you in the mouth and we’ve got to match their intensity and physicality on the interior. That’s where they have beaten teams this year. In the games that they have out-rebounded their opponents for the most part, they win the game. The games that they are beaten on the glass, they don’t.”
West Virginia might be entering this game with a 1-2 record in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers absolutely have an identity. West Virginia plays tough and efficient basketball. Most of the Mountaineers team statistics rank them in the bottom half of the Big 12, but you see spikes in certain categories as West Virginia is ranked third in assist-to-turnover ratio and third in offensive rebounding.
“They do a good job of taking care of the basketball,” said Hoiberg. “I know that they drill a lot of that. I went to a couple of Bob’s practices when I was working in the NBA and that’s a big thing that they work on.”
Offense has been one mass struggle for this team all season long. For comparison’s sake, Iowa State is the only team in America that has scored 70 or more points in every game this season. West Virginia, who ranks eighth in the Big 12 in scoring offense at 68 points per game, has only reached the 70-point mark in six of 15 contests. The most that the Mountaineers have scored in Big 12 play is 64 vs. Kansas State last Saturday. Not one member of this West Virginia team ranks in the top 20 of Big 12 scorers.
“They are shooting it better,” said Hoiberg. “Against Oklahoma, they shot the heck out of the ball especially in that first half. They hit key ones down the stretch against Texas. They are a very athletic team so we are going got have to come ready to play. We’ll put our hard hat on and go out there and try to battle.”
While that no players in the top 20 stat is ultimately a negative, it also makes the Mountaineers tough to prepare for. For instance, West Virginia’s top two scorers on the season, Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten, have both been coming off of the bench. And then there’s Jabarie Hinds, who has scored in double figures three straight games after only reaching double digits once before Big 12 play began.
“He’s great in transition,” said Otzleberger of Hinds. “He is the guy who is going to score two or three basketball almost every game in transition. You’ve got to take that away.”
“With West Virginia and Coach Huggins’ teams, you never know who they are going to put out there. They have started so many different lineups and played so many different guys. We have to be ready for whatever he throws at us.”
Quotable: Fred Hoiberg scouts West Virginia
“(Juwan) Staten is extremely fast. He didn’t play in their last game. We don’t know his status for this next one. Murray is a very physical player who can step out and hit a shot. (Deniz) Kilicli is a monster in there. They do a good job with their bigs. They really do a good job of forcing the ball in there to them. They can hurt you with an arsenal of moves. Kilicli is a right-handed player who probably goes to his left more in the post. And then there guards are fast and they are shooting the ball much better than they were early in the season.”
*** This will mark the first-ever meeting between Iowa State and West Virginia in the sport of basketball.
*** However, Huggins has coached five games against Iowa State over the course of his long career. He’s 4-1 against the Cyclones, going 2-1 while at Cincinnati and 2-0 at Kansas State.
*** Iowa State is known for its transfers and so is West Virginia. Staten played for Dayton during the 2010-11 season. Coincidentally, he was coached there by Iowa State assistant Cornell Mann for that one season. West Virginia has two other transfers on its roster – Aaric Murray (La Salle) and Matt Humphrey (Boston College).
*** Iowa State currently leads the Big 12 and ranks third nationally in 3-pointers per game at 9.5. Iowa State made 10 or more 3-pointers in both Big 12 games this season.
Huggins’ “we’ll try to physically beat the crap out of you” mentality will at the very least keep West Virginia in a handful of games this season. However, the thought that this offensively challenged team will outscore Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum is hard for me to believe. It’s a similar team to Texas really. As long as the Cyclones don’t have a nightmare night of shooting, Iowa State should be 2-1 in league play before hitting the road to take on TCU this Saturday.
Iowa State 76, West Virginia 63