Dec 7, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) scores on a easy layup 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
AMES — Iowa State led 69-63 with 6:38 left Thursday night when Hans Brase stole the ball from Iowa sophomore forward Tyler Cook. The Cyclones were coming off of a Donovan Jackson 3-pointer that had equaled their largest lead of the night.
Iowa State worked the ball around the Iowa zone before Nick Weiler-Babb threw a skip pass to Lindell Wigginton on the left wing. The 6-foot-2 freshman phenom fired a 3-pointer over the hand of a closing out Iowa defender.
Bang. Iowa State 72-63 with 6:15 to play. Timeout Hawkeyes.
Wigginton looked towards the Iowa State student section along the baseline and let out a yell. It was a pose reminiscent of Cyclone great Naz Mitrou-Long, who happened to be sitting in a courtside seat on the opposite side of the court.
“It was crazy. I’ve never heard that before in my life,” Wigginton said about the sound made by Hilton Coliseum’s sellout crowd of 14,834. “The fans were crazy. I was loving it though. I was getting a little hyped. I don’t usually get hyped, but I was getting hyped.”
The 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run that pushed Iowa State over the hump on its way to an 84-78 win over the rival Hawkeyes. Iowa would get back to within three points during the final minute, but a pair of Brase free throws quickly slammed the door on any comeback.
Fittingly, it was Wigginton’s breakaway layup with one second on the clock, his 23rd and 24th points of the night, that sealed the deal for good. The former five-star recruit is only the second Cyclone freshman to score 20-points in three straight games.
You might have heard of the other one. His name is Marcus Fizer.
“I don’t want to put any expectations on him,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said when asked if people can expect 20-points from Wigginton every night. “I just want him to go play and have fun and enjoy getting better. Enjoy getting better. Enjoy getting to learn each other better. Enjoy watching tape with him tomorrow. And not have any pressure about can he get 20…”
Prohm was cut off and pushed for an answer. Is he surprised when Wigginton puts together a performance like he has now in three straight contests?
“No, I mean he’s capable,” Prohm said with a smile. “He was good tonight.”
Wigginton was far from the only star along the way to Iowa State’s sixth straight win this season and its eighth consecutive home win over its in-state rival.
Weiler-Babb recorded his fourth double-double of the year with 15 points and 10 assists. He became the first player in Iowa State history to record 10 or more assists in four consecutive games.
Jackson shrugged off a poor shooting performance, just 4-of-13 from the field and 2-of-8 from behind-the-arc, to finish with 12 points. Solomon Young was a steadying presence, especially early in the game, by scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Freshman forward Terrence Lewis came in to knock down a pair of free throws and a pair of 3-pointers, including one that came only a few minutes before the run capped by Wigginton’s fourth 3-pointer mentioned earlier.
“Those two free throws were huge, the three against the zone,” Prohm said about Lewis’ performance in nine minutes of action. “He played with a lot more confidence in the second half. I know he only played 10 minutes, but those were 10 big minutes he played for us tonight.”
Lewis, Wigginton and redshirt freshman Cameron Lard, who finished with six points and three rebounds in 12 minutes, continued to prove why they have been considered the cornerstones of Iowa State’s program moving forward. The growth all three players have shown this early in the season has been staggering, especially Wigginton, who has become one of the most productive first-year players in the country over the past three weeks.
The Cyclones are far from a finished product, but Thursday night against a major opponent at Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State proved it can still jump up and bite.
“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,” Prohm said. “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.”