What: Iowa State (14-5, 4-2) @ Oklahoma State (13-5, 3-3)
When: Wednesday, Jan. 30 @ 7 p.m.
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
TV: Big 12 Network (WOI, KIMT, KPTH, DFU utility, Mediacom-QC, Ottumwa)
Today I am reminded of a quote from one of, if not the funniest movie of all-time, Dumb and Dumber.
“Some folks just weren’t cut out for life on the road.”
That’s what the great Lloyd Christmas said about his friend, Harry Dunne, as the characters played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels road tripped from Rhode Island to Colorado.
Daniels had fallen asleep, much like Iowa State did last week in a surprising 56-51 loss to Texas Tech. You know the rest of the story – Iowa State bounced back with a 73-67 home win over Kansas State on Saturday.
As far as the Big 12 standings are concerned, Iowa State is ahead of Oklahoma State heading into Wednesday’s game in Stillwater. However that is deceiving. Oklahoma State, a team that the Big 12 coaches picked to finish third in its preseason poll, is undefeated at home this season and most importantly, Iowa State hasn’t won in Stillwater since the year 1988. That’s 16 straight losses at the Gallagher-Iba Arena for Iowa State men’s basketball if you’re keeping track at home.
“We’ve certainly had our chances the last few years,” said Fred Hoiberg on Monday. “We lost in overtime two years ago and then last year, (LeBryan) Nash hits the shot and we got a shot blocked at the buzzer.”
Iowa State actually had a six-point lead with just over a minute to play in that 2011 loss. Last year in Stillwater, a 69-67 Cowboy victory, was highlighted by Chris Allen’s 6-for-9 performance from 3-point range.
When it comes to snapping that streak, Iowa State has been close, very close in its last two tries. Will the Cyclones finally get over that hump tonight?
Breaking down the Cowboys…
“They have as much talent I think as anybody in the conference.”
That’s what Hoiberg had to say about Travis Ford’s squad earlier in the week. That’s some pretty high praise from a former NBA executive and it all starts with true freshman point guard Marcus Smart.
“He is a beast,” said Hoiberg. “We are going to have to get creative in match-ups and will try to throw some different looks at them. He’s a kid who can do it all.”
Smart, a bulky 6-foot-4, 225-pound point guard, is averaging 13.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Cowboys. Add his Big 12 leading 2.72 steals per game to the conversation and you’re talking about one of the top guards in not only the Big 12, but all of college basketball.
“I remember talking to Billy Donovan last year,” said Hoiberg. “In their under-18 team, he thought that Marcus Smart was their best player because of his overall ability to get everybody involved and make the right play. I think he is a winner and he’s going to be a big key – to slow him down – if we’re going to win this game.”
Smart, who is also averaging 4.7 assists per game, was named college basketball’s Preseason National Freshman of the Year by Jeff Goodman at CBSSports.com. He is great, but that’s only one piece to this Cowboy attack.
Oklahoma State is the only team in the league with three players in the top 10 in scoring. Along with Smart, there’s Markel Brown (14.9) and Le’Bryan Nash (13.3). Brown has scored 21 points over more twice in his last three games including a 24-point outing in Saturday’s 80-66 win over West Virginia.
“He was great. He was taking the ball to the basket. He’s extremely athletic,” said Hoiberg. “He’s shooting the ball at a high rate right now. He’s getting to the free throw line.”
And the weapons just keep on coming. You all know LeBryan Nash, a super sophomore forward that averaged 19.5 points in two games vs. Iowa State last season.
“Nash is a guy at any moment that can go out and get you 30 as well,” said Hoiberg.
Don’t sleep on another freshman, Phil Forte, who scored a career-high 26 points in Saturday’s win over the Mountaineers.
“That’s Marcus Smart getting those guys involved,” said Hoiberg. “They run their shot very well. They are being aggressive in transition right now.”
The Cowboys can defend too. Oklahoma State is currently the Big 12’s second-ranked scoring defense giving up an average of 58.3 points per game.
Based off of the way that this team plays, predicting Iowa State road games is going to be hard to do all season long. So far, the Cyclones are 3-5 away from Hilton Coliseum this season but in most cases that has just as much to do with the opposition as it does anything. Even so, when you’re a high-flying, 3-point slinging basketball team like Iowa State is, leaving your comfort zone and winning consistently is a hard thing to do.
“You’ve got to be careful about going out and pushing the pace and taking a bad, contested shot early,” said Hoiberg. “We showed that against Tech. It is hard to win games when you do that. We have to come out with the right mindset that we are going to look to get out and run. That’s what we do best. If it’s not there, we get it out.”
I just feel like Oklahoma State has too many weapons. It’s a different team that plays a different style than say Oklahoma or Kansas State. I think that Iowa State has a chance to win either one of those games away from home. But Oklahoma State or say Baylor, teams that score more points? It’s tough.
That’s what’s fun about being a fan of this team though. You know that on any night, the Cyclones could hit 13-15 3-pointers and beat anybody.
I really do feel like this Iowa State team truly got a wake-up call in that loss to Tech. Yes, I’m predicting a loss but no, I’m not predicting a loss that you’ll all be fanatically fired up about the next day. I actually see this game going a lot like Iowa State’s last two trips to Stillwater with the Cowboys pulling away at the end.
Oklahoma State 76, Iowa State 69