Memo to fans who wanted to see Iowa State look more crisp and dynamic on offense in Friday’s season opening win over Colorado: You’ve got company.
“I was disappointed we didn’t get 80 or 90,” said Cyclones forward Abdel Nader, who scored 14 points in a tense second half against the Buffaloes.
Nader spoke tongue-in-cheek to some extent. High-flying ISU is still undergoing a well-grounded makeover. The rebirth continues at 7 p.m. tonight when the No. 7 Cyclones open their home slate against Chicago State at Hilton Coliseum.
“This whole thing is a learning process,” said ISU All-American Georges Niang, who led the team with 17 points in the opening win. “I don’t want to use, ‘We just got a new coach,’ but relationships don’t just happen overnight. I think we’re working toward that and I think if (fans) expect us to win by 20 points we appreciate that expectation, but I think it’s pretty amazing that we fought through adversity, never hung our heads, never really gave up the lead (against Colorado).”
Process is a popular word under first-year head coach Steve Prohm.
That bond — the relationship of which Niang speaks — began deepening on the summer trip to Spain, then became tighter as practices grew more intense. Now that the season’s here, the process remains the focus. Prohm stresses the motto, “Win the day,” and the Cyclones seem to be falling in line accordingly. And, hey, they’re 1-0, which will make his mother’s first visit to town more enjoyable.
“I want her to be in a good mood to be honest,” Prohm said.
Same goes for the fan base, which occupied about 99 percent of the Sanford Pentagon’s seats for Friday’s win.
“Our fans travel so well,” Prohm said. “It’s a great environment. It’s really a home court game, a home game. So this was great. And they did it right — with all the doors, the signs, everything was done first class.”
So on to the next.
The Cougars (1-0) generally play the role of big-school piñata in the preseason. They’ve compiled a winning record just once in the past 29 seasons, but did pummel Division III Illinois Tech 137-59 in their season opener. Tonight’s game technically is part of the Emerald Coast Classic slate, which concludes with games Nov. 27-28 at Niceville, Fla. It’s no secret that UAB is part of the Classic’s roster of teams, but a possible rematch with the Blazers isn’t on the Cyclones’ minds just yet.
"We’re still learning," Niang reiterated. "Coach Prohm is still learning us. I think there are a ton of good things you can take out of (the opener), but obviously one thing we need to improve on is putting teams out, that’s for sure."
The process stands front and center. Navigating it cures a lot of ills. Bumps in the road will continue to pock the pavement. The key lies in gliding around them, which ISU mostly did against Colorado. That’s the biggest takeaway from game one — and something to build on as relationships grow stronger and player-coach interactions become intuitive, second nature.
“(Prohm’s) going to start getting more comfortable with us just as we’re starting to get more comfortable with him and I think he did a great job of letting us play and then sometimes chiming in and letting us know we need to run a set to burn some clock, to get the shot that we need,” Niang said. “I think that’s huge. He still lets us play with freedom, we still run a ton of plays that we’ve run before but I think he’s implementing his will on when we need to do things and when we don’t need to do things. I really think the biggest thing, credit to him, is just our defense. The way we’re in the passing lanes, the way we’re swarming, we have a tenacity, an identity about ourselves on defense. Credit goes to him.”