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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Recapping loss to South Carolina, first Saturday in Big 12

When Iowa State lost to Maryland 72-63 on Nov. 25 in Kansas City, I wrote afterwards that a 29.7 percent night from the field was an offensive anomaly. Statistically during the Fred Hoiberg era, it absolutely was. In only one game prior to that during Hoiberg’s tenure had the Cyclones shot so poorly. 

So what exactly happened in Saturday’s 64-60 loss to South Carolina in Brooklyn?

The Cyclones went 1-for-18 from 3-point range – another anomaly. Had it not been for Naz Long’s 3-pointer with 47 seconds to play, Iowa State’s streak of 243 games (dating back to 2007) with a triple would have been snapped. 

However, it is possible that a trend could be developing here.

Is the playbook on how to slow down Iowa State’s high-flying offense out, or did the Cyclones simply shoot as poorly as possible in their only losses of the season?

Probably some truth to both but I’d lean towards the latter. 

Maryland and South Carolina were both big, nasty and defensively aggressive basketball teams (Maryland, in my opinion, was clearly the more polished of the two). Both teams forced the Cyclones to play a half-court game, which as a result, did not end well for the good guys. 

Iowa State entered Saturday tops in the country at assists per game at 19.1. In the loss to the Gamecocks, the Cyclones dished out only eight assists on 20 field goals because – you know – you have to make shots to record assists. 

Two more notes from a weird game…

Iowa State forced 20 South Carolina turnovers, and lost.

The top free throw shooting team in the Big 12 (heading into Saturday), Iowa State, shot 33 free throws (made only 19 of them), and lost.

Reason to panic? 

Uh, no. It’s Jan. 3. 

But there is reason to be somewhat concerned when physical teams like Texas and Oklahoma (to name a few) show up on a grueling, unforgiving Big 12 schedule.  

Buckle up, Fanatics. Iowa State’s next four opponents (Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor and Kansas) are all currently ranked in KenPom.com’s top 25. 

Oklahoma State will enter Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday night (8 on ESPN2) for Iowa State’s Big 12 opener.

BIG 12 BASKETBALL JOTTINGS 

DISASTER IN MANHATTAN: It’s officially time to press the panic button in Manhattan.

Kansas State entered Saturday’s Big 12 debut at Oklahoma State as a seven-point underdog so the fact that the Wildcats lost to the Cowboys should be no surprise. It’s how they lost – being outscored 34-18 in the second half and ultimately losing 61-47 – that is problematic.

More important than the final score is the fact that for some reason, last year’s freshman phenom Marcus Foster was a non-factor for the second game in a row. Last season, Foster averaged 15.5 points per game and was regarded as one of the brightest young players in the sport. In A 50-46 New Years Eve loss to Georgia, he played 24 minutes and scored two points. On Saturday, Foster only played 14 minutes went 0-for-4 and didn’t score a single point. 

To get a better grasp of what’s going on in Manhattan, I’d encourage you all to CLICK HERE and read this column on the situation by Sean Keeler from FOX Sports.

Kansas State, who was picked by the league’s coaches to finish fourth (ahead of Iowa State) in the Big 12’s preseason poll, has now lost three games in a row including an embarrassing 58-56 defeat to Texas Southern. 

Kansas State has enough talent to turn this thing around but I don’t see how anybody could have enough confidence in Bruce Weber to believe that the Wildcats actually will.

NO STATEN? NO PROBLEM: West Virginia’s Juwan Staten might be the best player in the Big 12. On Saturday at TCU, the guard sat out because of the flu.

The result? TCU’s 12-0 non-con was a bit of a fraud.

Or, West Virginia is just that much better than we thought they were. Without Staten, the Mountaineers handled the Horned Frogs 78-67.

Regardless of what TCU has this season, it doesn’t take away from what Bob Huggins’ team did without its top player on the road in the best conference in America.

Consider this a tip of the hat to West Virginia. 

ELSEWHERE: As expected, Texas beat Texas Tech (70-61) and Oklahoma held off Baylor 73-63).

What did we learn on the first Saturday of Big 12 play?

Not much, other than gaining some information onTCU likely being nothing more than a product of a soft non-league schedule. 

That, and of course, Kansas State’s issues appear to be much deeper than anybody thought.

3-POINT SHOT

1 – Maryland, who handed Iowa State its first loss of the season, improved to 14-1 on Saturday via a 70-58 victory over Minnesota.

2 – South Carolina defeated Iowa State’s next opponent, Oklahoma State, 75-49 on Dec. 6. 

3 – Get a final look at Kansas on Sunday, when the Jayhawks will close out their non-conference slate with a home game vs. UNLV at 3:30 (CBS). 

CYCLONE WOMEN SURVIVE 

Bill Fennelly’s Cyclones turned the basketball over a ridiculous 21 times in Saturday’s Big 12 opener vs. Kansas State, but somehow held on and defeated the Wildcats by a 60-55 final.

When you turn it over that many times and yet somehow win a league game against what looked like a decent team, can you somehow turn that into a positive? You know, because you played so badly but still somehow found a way to win?

I asked Fennelly that question after the game.

“Everyone would say yes, except me, Chris, probably,” Fennelly said. “I think that’s ridiculous. We should not be doing that. Not the way that we’ve done it in the past. We need to handle the ball, better decision making, certainly it’s got to be coached better. You always have them when you’re young, but at the same time, we as coaches have to think about, okay, we got away with it today, we got away with it with people playing, maybe, having a little out of body experience for some of them and it being at home. So, I’m really excited for the kids to get a win. It’s fun to win a Big 12 game. It’s so hard to do it. Hopefully, when we see the video of a Big 12 game, our kids will know this is what we need to be doing."

If you turn it over 21 times in the Big 12, you’ll lose way more often than you win.

But I also think that the fact that despite playing so poorly and still picking up the W, Fennelly’s staff will have a lot to coach with leading up to Wednesday’s game at TCU.

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