WILLIAMS: Cyclones fall short, but Jackson earns great respect in gritty performance

Feb 21, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm talks with guard Donovan Jackson (4) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the first half at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — That was really close to being an all-timer inside of Iowa State’s historic Hilton Coliseum, but not for the usual reasons. After all, we’re talking about a last-place team and it’s late February.

None of that mattered on Wednesday, a night that was about so much more than simply basketball.

TCU (19-9, 7-8) topped the Cyclones (13-14, 4-11) 89-83 but those in attendance witnessed Donovan Jackson playing an inspiring 33 minutes just four days after losing his father, Don, at the way-too-young age of 52.

“I just know that he would have wanted me to come out here and compete,” said Jackson, who led all scorers with 27 points. “He always used to tell me to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. I think I got to the free throw line 10 times tonight. I know he’s happy about that.”

Jackson will miss Saturday’s game at West Virginia to attend his father’s funeral. As of now, Iowa State will only have six eligible players in that contest, assuming that Hans Brase is not cleared for action.

To honor Don, the Cyclones wore handmade shirts that said “DJ” during warm-ups. During a predictably loud ovation from the Cyclone faithful, Jackson pointed two fingers at the sky during player introductions. Jackson received multiple in-game hugs from head coach Steve Prohm, and a passionate hand shake from TCU’s Jamie Dixon.

“It (the game) was really different because I know he is watching from up above. I know he’s not going to call me,” Jackson said upon finally breaking down emotionally after the game. “I have to do everything he used to tell me I had to do and I tried to do that today.”

Jackson’s dad was most recently in Ames for last week’s game against Kansas.

“It’s hard,” Prohm said. “He was only 52. It’s perspective. You hate losing. You want to do a better job but Donovan is a 21-year-old senior. He has the whole world in front of him. He’d probably give anything in the world to have another conversation with his father.”

On and off the court, it’s been quite the couple of weeks for this Iowa State basketball program.

Solomon Young had knee surgery on Tuesday (which Prohm said went great) and is likely out for the remainder of the season.

Later this week, Nick Weiler-Babb is going to have an MRI on his back, believe it or not, to see if there is something hidden that’s been causing chronic knee pain. 

Iowa State went at it with seven eligible players against the Horned Frogs and fared quite well, early on at least. Playing with a high level of emotion, the Cyclones led 47-41 at halftime. A nasty yet usual trend, poor second-half defense, continued in the second 20 minutes as TCU made 67 percent of its shots.

“We had opportunities to win this game.” Prohm said. “We just have to mature in a lot of areas and we just haven’t done it quick enough. This league is hard to mature in. We have dealt with a lot of different things but that’s life and that’s basketball and that’s college athletics. From that standpoint, we just haven’t gotten them to mature quick enough or at the speed that everybody would want.”

No more basketball talk from this one though. Not tonight. It’s simply not important. A win would have been wonderful, but the loss doesn’t take away what Donovan Jackson accomplished.

“Hopefully those guys understand what he did tonight,” Prohm said. “He sacrificed a lot to be here. He played hard. He played the right way.”

Just like dad would have wanted.