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Basketball

Williams Blog: Time for a lineup change

To anyone who steadily watches Iowa State basketball, it is obvious that slow starts at the beginning of both halves have been an issue all season long for the Cyclones. The most recent example of this trend occurred on Wednesday night when during the first five minutes of each half, Kansas out-scored Iowa State by a combined 32-14. As I wrote after the game, a stat like that is a death sentence for the opposition inside of Allen Fieldhouse.

Now as most of you realize, there a lot of positives to take away from the Kansas game. Heck, I’d guess that most of you feel better about this team now than you did following last Saturday’s 81-75 home victory over Kansas State. But like anything in life, this team can get better and addressing the slow starts is an obvious place to begin. 

“We’ve been fighting from behind for pretty much the whole season,” freshman Matt Thomas said on Thursday. 

And he’s right. Like the headline on Brent Blum’s post-Kansas column read, the Cyclones have made a habit of attempting to chase down a freight train. Because of that, it isn’t fair to squarely point a finger at sophomore Naz Long, who has been besieged since the beginning of Big 12 play, as the lone problem when it comes to slow starts.

But the numbers clearly show Long’s recent struggles. He went 27-for-55 (49 percent) from 3-point range during the non-conference portion of Iowa State’s schedule. Since league play began, he’s gone 7-for-27 (25 percent). Long’s lack of offense has likely affected production on the other end of the floor too, as it often does in this sport.

If it is Matt Thomas (Iowa State was +17 during his 25 minutes on Wednesday night) or Monte Morris (who has only turned the ball over 11 times in 443 minutes this season), a change in the starting lineup is needed right now for Iowa State. The time has come.

This would probably help Long get back on track too. Naz is an energy guy. He is as selfless as they come. Starting isn’t a big deal to him and I really could see the move back to the bench potentially turn his season around.

JOTTINGS

Loving it: After Wednesday night’s game, I found my way to a Lawrence establishment to have a wind down for the night Busch Light. I got to chatting with a bartender who predictably was an obsessive Kansas Jayhawk fan. Anyway, we somehow ended up discussing how awesome the Big 12 round-robin schedule has turned out to be. Fred Hoiberg and Bill Fennelly probably don’t agree but from my standpoint (a guy who covers the league for a living) and yours (the diehard fan), is this not setting up to be a ridiculously entertaining final two months of the season?

The best: I have been pretty consistent all season long that I thought the Big Ten was the best league in college basketball. Not anymore. Big 12 > everybody else.

Great quote: This gem comes from Iowa State assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih on last night’s Cyclone Fanatic Radio Show that is presented by Wilson Toyota of Ames: “You’ve got to have amnesia when you play in the Big 12.”

REBOUND: A quick refresher for you: Oklahoma snagged 13 offensive rebounds that resulted in 22 second chance points (compared to a measly two for Iowa State) while handing the Cyclones their first loss of the season on Jan. 11.

“Box out, box out, box out man,” Monte Morris said. “That’s going to be the key. We just didn’t give any effort rebounding.”

Effort shouldn’t be a problem tomorrow. That’s my prediction anyway. I like Iowa State to beat Oklahoma at home on Saturday and follow it up with a big road win in Stillwater on Big Monday.