By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
AMES — Iowa State’s first two field goals in Saturday’s 82-73 loss to No. 10 Kansas came from an unusual combination.
Royce White for three! Melvin Ejim…for three!
It marked the first 3-point field goal of White’s collegiate career. Ejim is a 23 percent 3-point shooter (6-of-26 on the season). Big men shooting the rock was contagious for the Cyclones, on Saturday at least.
Junior Anthony Booker went 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He’s now 10-for-16 from downtown on the season. Booker’s emergence as a threat off of the bench has been especially important for the Cyclones since Big 12 play began two weeks ago.
“It stretches the defense out," said associate head coach T.J. Otzelberger. "It allows there to be more open lanes for other guys. It creates space for Royce getting to the basket."
A big man who can shoot makes life easier on everybody in Fred Hoiberg’s offense. Think Jamie Vanderbeken from last season. It’s all about spacing.
“It makes it harder to double-team Royce or affect his shot at the rim. A lot of people are playing him with a smaller defender. With Booker making shots like that, it makes it tough.”
As Hoiberg has stated in the past, Booker has the green light to shoot threes when he is open.
As for White, well, that’s still to be determined.
“We were as shocked as anybody," said Otzelberger about White’s 3-pointer. "With him taking that shot, it is one of those as a coach to be honest where you’re like ‘No, no. All right, great shot!’ Then Melvin made one on the next possession. Those aren’t shots that we were looking for to start the game to be completely honest but you know what, the guys do put a lot of work into shooting the basketball and Royce has put some time in as well.”
MUST WIN: If Iowa State wants to talk about reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004/05, going 2-0 this week would be a good start. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are up next on the schedule. The Cowboys will enter Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday (8 p.m. tip) with a disappointing 9-8 record and beat up, coming off of an ugly 106-65 loss to Baylor over the weekend.
"We look at this game as a must win," said Otzelberger. "We need to get back with a win in the win column and I think we’re going to have two hard days of practice where we’re really going to push the guys and challenge them like Oklahoma State is the only game on our schedule.”
Saturday’s road opponent, Texas Tech, is currently sitting with an 0-4 record in the Big 12. The Red Raiders are 7-9 overall and most recently lost at Texas A&M by a 67-54 final.
It’s possible that these two teams are the worst in the Big 12.
FIRST FOUR OUT: Despite going 0-2 last week, Iowa State’s impressive efforts vs. two top 10 teams caught the attention of ESPN.com’s "Bracketology" expert Joe Lunardi. Along with Southern Miss, N.C. State and Minnesota, the Cyclones are a part of Lunardi’s "First Four Out" list in this week’s Bracketology.