Dec 8, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Peter Jok (14) controls the ball as Iowa State Cyclones guard Deonte Burton (30) defends during the second half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa won 78-64. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
IOWA CITY — It’s time for Iowa State basketball to look itself in the mirror.
This isn’t about stagnant offense. It isn’t about defensive rotations. It has nothing to do with missed layups, catch and shoot misses or too much dribbling. It isn’t even about rebounding or effort.
This appears to be about pride and leadership right now.
On Thursday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa State looked like it had neither in a convincing 78-64 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Coming out that flat inside of your rival’s house…How does that happen?
“We lost to Cincinnati by one, Gonzaga by two, but we competed the right way in those two games,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “Second half we were good. You look at their percentage in the second half, but we lost that game in the first half giving up 44 points. We’ve made great growth defensively and we were bad in the first half tonight. It effected all areas of the game. When we’re playing a certain way, we’re really good I think, but we have to play that way consistently.”
Setting quality screens, getting a hand up early on a shot and taking care of the ball in pressure situations are pride things. They are somewhat about skill, but a lot of it is about having pride in doing those little things.
Those aren’t the most glorifying aspects of the game of basketball, but they are crucial when it comes to putting together offensive flow and stifling defense. They are the things good teams do when it comes time to buckle down and win a game.
Iowa State isn’t always bad at those things but right now, they don’t do them consistently enough to be an elite or even really good basketball team.
For months, players on Iowa State’s roster have talked about playing like their backs are against the wall or imagining people are doubting them. Well, it is probably safe to say we have reached the point where they no longer have to imagine.
Thursday in Iowa City might be the wake-up call this program needs to turn things back towards an upward trajectory.
“Everybody loves you when you’re on top. You see who your true friends and true fans are once you’re down,” senior point guard Monte Morris said. “We’ve got our heads high, my head going to stay high. I know what I’m capable of doing and just got to go out and make plays. We’ll get towards it. We’ve still got games to play, but like I said, you’ll see who’s still riding with you and who’s not. That’s just life.”
Maybe Iowa State needed to get punched in the mouth again before we would fully know how they would respond. Gonzaga did it in Florida and ISU was able to punch right back. The same could be said about the game against Cincinnati, but neither team was able to make the knockout punch that really got the Cyclones off their game for good.
Iowa punched the Cyclones in the mouth then broke their spirit with a drove of body blows.
Hopefully Iowa City turns into a watershed moment for Iowa State’s season. Do they get off the canvas and brush themselves off, ready to fight back or feel sorry for themselves and retreat?
“If this doesn’t slap us in the face,” senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long said, “then nothing will. It definitely did. Guys feel it in there. I think down the road it could be a good thing.”