Iowa State will begin its second trip around the Big 12 Monday night when the Cyclones visit Texas in Austin. The Longhorns won the first game between the two teams on New Year’s Day 74-70 in overtime.
The Cyclones appear to be back on the upswing following their 70-52 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. It was a much-needed bounce-back performance after the team was embarrassed by TCU only a few days earlier.
Can Iowa State build on its momentum against a Texas team coming off being dismantled by West Virginia in Morgantown? Here are three points on how Iowa State can pick up its second straight Big 12 win.
1 — Can the Cyclones get Lindell Wigginton going early?
Iowa State’s freshman phenom played one of his worst games of the season the first time around against the Longhorns, scoring only four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 0-of-6 from behind-the-arc.
The Cyclones have been at their best when Wigginton is able to get in a groove early in games and that seems like one of the biggest keys for the team entering Monday night. Wigginton wasn’t at his absolute best on Saturday against the Red Raiders, scoring 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Iowa State will need him at his best in order to pick up a win in Austin.
2 — How has Iowa State improved defending the pick and pop?
Dylan Osetkowski played one of his best games of his collegiate career in the first game against the Cyclones and that was largely due to Iowa State’s struggles guarding ball-screens. Osetkowski scored 25 points with most of that coming from 3-point range where he was 7-of-13 with very few of his shots being contested.
Iowa State will need to be considerably better this time around because it seems likely the Longhorns will try to do everything they can to exploit what was a legitimate defensive weakness in the first game. The Cyclones have been better of late, TCU game excluded, at not allowing shooters to consistently get wide open.
If the Cyclones have been able to sure up that part of their game on the defensive end, it will take away a huge piece of what the Longhorns did in game one.
3 — Does Cameron Lard extend his hot streak?
Lard, who was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday, was considered the MVP of the first game against the Longhorns in which he scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Iowa State’s 6-foot-9 center outplayed future NBA lottery pick Mohamed Bamba in that game and they’ll need him to go toe-to-toe with the 6-foot-11 freshman again. That will be one of the most important matchups to watch in the game as the Cyclones have generally been good offensively when Lard is able to get into an early rhythm, much like with Wigginton.
If Lard can assert his dominance in the paint in the first several minutes, I feel confident Iowa State will have every opportunity to contend for a victory in Austin.