The Breakdown: Iowa State @ Colorado

By Chris Williams, Publisher

Iowa State (14-8, 1-6) @ Colorado (14-8, 3-4)
Tuesday, Feb. 1 * 8 p.m. @ the Coors Events Center
FSN Rocky Mountain – Cyclone Radio Network


Iowa State’s probable starters

G: Diante Garrett, 6-4 Sr. – 17.8 PPG, 5.8 APG
Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Jr. – 13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG
Jake Anderson, 6-2 Sr.  – 12.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG
Melvin Ejim, 6-6 Fr. – 11.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG
Jamie Vanderbeken, 6-11 Sr. – 11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG

As if this team needed more adversity.

“We were thin before. We are thinner now. We better get those football players ready also.”

That’s a quote from Fred Hoiberg after he announced that freshman Calvin Godfrey had been suspended for three games due to a violation of team rules.

What’s that mean? For one, Iowa State will only have seven scholarship players eligible in tonight’s game with Colorado. It also means that in order for Iowa State to win this contest, the Cyclones will likely need to see an encore performance from Melvin Ejim, who lead the team with 19 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma.

“He was back to being who he was earlier on in the year, as far as just going out and playing, flying all over the place and getting offensive rebounds and just taking what the game gives him instead of trying to push too much,” Hoiberg said. “He got away from being who he was. It was a much-needed game for him. When you are struggling like he was, you need a game like that to get your confidence going again. Hopefully Melvin can build off of that. He is going to need to give us huge minutes and big energy with Calvin out of the lineup.”

Another key for Iowa State will be to get off to a better start. The Cyclones have been sluggish at the beginning of their last two games. Oklahoma jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first four minutes of Saturday’s game. If Iowa State gets down by double-digits early in Boulder, it could be an extremely long night.

“I thought that it was our lack of energy against Texas Tech,” Hoiberg said. “We just weren’t ourselves. We weren’t running. We weren’t getting to our spots quick enough in our sets. We didn’t take advantage on the fast break. When we did have opportunities, we didn’t take the ball to the net. That was really the only game all year where I have been disappointed in our effort.”

“Against Oklahoma, I thought that we put our heads down. You can’t do that. You have to play a full 40 minutes if you are going to compete in this league. We have to find a way.”

Other Cyclone tidbits…

–       As of Monday, Jamie Vanderbeken was still battling the flu.  Keep an eye on possible fatigue with the big man in the Rocky Mountain air.

–       In case you didn’t know by now, Boulder historically is not a kind place to Cyclone basketball teams. While Iowa State leads the all-time series with Colorado 76-68, the Buffs have a 47-16 record over the Cyclones in Boulder. The last time an Iowa State team won in Boulder was in 2005.

–       Remember the name Jean Priioleau? The former Greg McDermott assistant who was credited with bringing Wesley Johnson to Ames is now working for Tad Boyle at Colorado.

–       Fred Hoiberg scored his career-high 41 points vs. Colorado on Feb. 18, 1995.


Colorado’s probable starters

G: Cory Higgins, 6-5 Sr. – 16.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG
Alec Burks, 6-6 So. – 19.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG
Nate Tomlinson, 6-3 Jr. – 3.0 PPG, 2.4 APG
Marcus Relphorde, 6-7 Sr. – 11.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG
Austin Dufault, 6-9 Jr. – 8.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG

If you ever listen to Brent Blum and me on the weekly CF Podcast, you know my thoughts on Colorado. I tabbed them as a tournament team back in November and despite their four straight Big 12 losses, I still believe that the Buffs will be a bubble team in March.

To sum things up, this team is atrocious on the road. Colorado has lost road games to Harvard, San Francisco, Nebraska and Oklahoma just to name a few. However, they’re ridiculously good at home. Colorado’s only home loss this year was exactly one week ago to Kansas by four points.

“They are playing an exciting brand of basketball,” Hoiberg said. “They are playing up-tempo. That first win that they had against Missouri, their team played phenomenal. They played a great game against Kansas the other night and had a chance to win at the end. They just didn’t quite make the plays down the stretch to win it but he gave them a chance to win that game.”

Hoiberg credits new Colorado head coach Tad Boyle for much of this turnaround.

“He does a great job of putting those guys in positions where they can isolate you and use their size/strength to shoot over the top of you. He has done a wonderful job there. I think that our league will miss him.”

Why am I so high on the Buffs? It has and always will come down to guard play in college basketball. Colorado’s Alec Burks will likely be a first round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. Many analysts (including Fred Hoiberg) believe that senior Cory Higgins will have a career in the association as well.

“I think that they are the best duo in a backcourt in the league and in the country,” Hoiberg said. “Those two are pros. Burks is a beast. He is 6-foot-6. He has great size. You’ve seen us hurt by that the last couple of games with (Steven) Pledger and (Mike) Singletary. That size has hurt us. They have elevated over our smaller guards and knocked down shots. Those guys create a tremendous mismatch and matchup problem for us.”


I wish that I felt better about this game. The losing streak, Boulder, Godfrey’s suspension and Vanderbeken’s illness all combine to make me think that this one could get out of hand tonight.

Still, this Iowa State team could snap back into life and get hot too. Who knows?

I’ve got to take the Buffs though.


Colorado 82, Iowa State 69