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Basketball


WILLIAMS: Prohm’s process shines as Cyclones come together in gritty win

Jan 31, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Donovan Jackson (4) guards against West Virginia Mountaineers guard James Bolden (3) at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Rachel Mummey-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Following Saturday’s rather embarrassing 23 point loss to Tennessee, Donovan Jackson made a comment that resonated with every Iowa State fan that was paying attention.

“We disrespected Hilton,” Iowa State’s dejected senior said following the route.

On Wednesday night, only thing Iowa State disrespected was West Virginia’s press.

What a game. What a turnaround. What a win.

Without its starting point guard in the lineup, Iowa State (12-9, 3-6) never trailed in a 93-77 victory over the No. 15 Mountaineers (16-6, 5-4).

Iowa State’s 45 points scored vs. Tennessee totaled the lowest offensive output in the history of Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones scored 53 points in the first half vs. West Virginia’s 14th-ranked adjusted defense (KenPom), which was the most in a period vs. a league opponent since Feb. 6, 1993 vs. Colorado.

Keep in mind that Nick Weiler-Babb is averaging 37.5 minutes per game this season. This team has hardly played without him.

College sports can be so weird.

“We had to respond and test our character,” freshman Lindell Wigginton said. “Tonight, we showed character.”

Indeed.

Going head-to-head with one of the Big 12’s best, Jevon Carter, Wigginton scored 22 points with five assists in his first “start” at the point guard position.

Iowa State’s assist-to-turnover ratio was 20-to-8. The 20 assists were the most by the Cyclones since recording 22 dimes vs. Northern Illinois on Dec. 4.

Team basketball is what basketball fans were treated to in this one.

Credit the players for buying in, and credit Steve Prohm for displaying the vision.

“I asked them before the game, ‘What is your best moment in basketball?’ Marial’s (Shayok) was an ACC championship,” Prohm said. “For the returning guys, it was a Big 12 Tournament championship. For Lindell, it was a No. 1 team ranking. None of it was being player of the year or leading the conference in scoring.”

Every answer from every player involved team success in one way or another.

“I just said that if that’s what it really is, let’s take steps as a team,” Prohm said.

You could watch the bond build during this win – one that felt more like a legitimate upset than beating Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago.

Some examples:

— After the game, Cameron Lard, who collected his sixth double-double (18 and 13), told me that he can, “never play like I did on Saturday again.” He learned from his mistakes, or whatever the reason was that Prohm didn’t start him. That’s maturity.

Donovan Jackson, Iowa State’s lone returning senior from last year, took the Tennessee loss harder than anybody. He backed up his talk by going 6-of-10 from three to lead all scorers with 25 points to go with his career-high seven assists.

“We showed Hilton love tonight, that’s for sure,” Jackson said.

In his first start as a Cyclone, Zoran Talley played a critical role in breaking West Virginia’s press – quite easily I might add – for a career-high 35 minutes.

— Solomon Young went 6-for-6 from the field with 14 points and 10 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. He did not attempt a forced 3-pointer in 27 minutes.

Jeff Beverly scored five points in 10 clean minutes while Jakolby Long was really good with three assists and two points in 11 minutes.

Team basketball is a beautiful thing.

Impatient fans hate hearing it but sometimes, in the AAU culture surrounding prep hoops, it really does take a while for young guys to really figured that out, especially without a vocal veteran like Naz Mitrou-Long coaching on and off the court.

“There is a lot of youth,” Prohm said. “I don’t want to sit up here and talk about it because this is about results. We need to win and we need to play well. But these guys are learning every day about confidence and focus and effort and detail. That’s why I was proud of them against the press because you have to be detail oriented, mentally and physically tough and they responded to that.”

Iowa State just turned one of the worst losses in program history into a 16 point win as a 10 point underdog vs. the nastiest team in college basketball.

I can only imagine that coaching this group is a lot like raising a teenager. Somehow you just have to show them the way and help keep their emotions in check.

“Everybody was berating these guys because of the Tennessee loss but a week ago we beat the No. 10 team in the country by a record margin of victory so you don’t want to have peaks and valleys, especially with a young group,” Prohm said. “Every day is a teaching day. Every moment is a teaching moment. They responded in a big way.”