Dec 7, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) celebrates with his team in the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes 84 to 78. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
This year’s Iowa State basketball intro video features the players surrounded by flame graphics. Thursday night, Lindell Wigginton used his own firepower to help guide Iowa State to an 84-78 victory over in-state rival Iowa and improve the Cyclones to 6-2 on the season.
The heralded freshman finished with 24 points on 9-18 shooting to lead all scorers, becoming the first Iowa State freshman since Marcus Fizer to score 20 points in three consecutive games.
Despite Wigginton’s big performance, neither team played well offensively. Iowa State connected on 46 percent of its shots from the field to Iowa’s 45 percent.
The keys to the game lied in the statistics that basketball coaches harp on every day at practice. ISU struggled to keep the Hawkeyes off the offensive glass, allowing a staggering 20 offensive boards and finishing the game with a -22 rebounding margin. However, Iowa hit just one of eight free throws and turned the ball over 18 times, which led to 28 points off turnovers for the Cyclones.
Even though fans who made the trip to Hilton Coliseum saw plenty of sloppy basketball, they were also treated to some exciting moments. The Cyclones trailed 41-36 at the half, but Wigginton set the tone by nailing a 3-pointer on ISU’s first possession of the second period to get the crowd back into it out of the break.
Both teams would trade blows until a Cameron Lard layup, a Terrence Lewis 3-pointer, and a dunk from Lard put the Cyclones up 63-57 with 9:46 remaining in the game.
The next big Iowa State run came just a couple minutes later. Wigginton connected on another 3-pointer, then was followed by a three from Donovan Jackson. With the lead once again at six, Wigginton immediately buried another triple from the left corner to extend ISU’s lead to nine points. The freshman looked like he’d made that same shot hundreds of times before as he stared into the crowd, bursting with confidence.
As has been the case with so many Cy-Hawk games in recent memory, the end of Thursday’s game wasn’t without some high blood pressure. The Hawks chipped away at the lead and Jack Nunge hit a shot in the lane with 28 seconds remaining to cut it to 79-76. On the ensuing inbound, Princeton transfer Hans Brase was fouled and sent to the line to effectively ice the game. The experienced Brase, a career 74% free throw shooter, nailed both shots and the Cyclones were able to hold on for their sixth straight win.
After the game, Iowa State’s Nick Weiler-Babb was asked about how the Cyclones were able to close out the Hawkeyes down the stretch.
“I just think confidence for the most part. I got confidence in all the guys on the court,” Weiler-Babb said. “Coach [Steve Prohm] put what he thought was the best five guys on the court for the situation we were in and we performed. I got confidence in any of the guys handling the ball. Lindell, Donovan, and Hans came through big and Solomon [Young], he’s just a big presence down there. We just stuck together and did it together.”
Steve Prohm knows his team didn’t play their best basketball in the win, but he came away feeling good about the direction his Cyclones are trending.
“We’re growing up. We’re growing up. Like Nick said, and I’m glad he said it, we’ve got a long way to go. We don’t have our identity yet, but we’re starting to make steps. It’s a growth process every day with this team. There’s a time we had three freshmen out there for several minutes. It was great for them to have that experience in an environment like this. What I learned is what we’re capable of when we do the right things that we can do. I think we can surprise some people. I learned that when things are tough they can respond. I learned that we’ve got good character. If you’ve got character, ability and toughness then you can do special things.”
Coach Prohm will look to continue the Cyclones’ winning ways against Alcorn State (2-7) on Sunday. That game will tip at 5 p.m. Central in Hilton Coliseum and can be seen on Cyclones.TV.