Nov 19, 2018; Lahaina, HI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Marial Shayok (3) dunks against the Arizona Wildcats in the first half during round one of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational at Lahaina Civic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
AMES – Steve Prohm is not exactly sure what his team will look like the next time it takes the floor in Hilton Coliseum.
Monday night’s 82-55 win over Omaha marked the last time the Cyclones’ head coach expects to be without what figures to be two of his key rotational frontcourt players – Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley. Both players were suspended for the month of November – or the team’s first seven games – and that time will officially be up when North Dakota State rolls into Ames next week.
“Those guys are set to play next week. We’re excited to get them back,” Prohm said after the win over the Mavericks. “I just thing the biggest thing is for our whole team, can we be selfless? Can we play for Iowa State? Can we play the fight way? If we’re about the right things, whether we have eight guys or we have 12 guys, we’re going to continue to grow. I’ve said from the beginning, I like this team. I think they like each other. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to go through some adversity… I’m not caught up in all that. I know that’s the big monkey in the room, elephant in the room, the questions. We’ll watch tape, I’ll meet with the guys and I think they’ve got a lot of trust in each other and trust in us that everything will be fine.”
Iowa State’s shortened rotation of eight players has fared as favorably as any Cyclone fan could have expected during a stretch which included games against Missouri, perennial powerhouse Arizona, Illinois and mid-major NCAA Tournament stalwart San Diego State with the latter three coming in the prestigious Maui Invitational.
The Cyclones weathered the storm without what figured to be two of its best frontcourt players, capping it with the dominant win over Omaha while being led by senior guard Marial Shayok‘s 18 points and seven rebounds.
Really, on some level, Iowa State may even end up benefiting from the pair missing the beginning of the season as we have been able to fully come to understand what former Nebraska transfer Michael Jacobson, who added 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Mavericks, brings to the court.
“To be honest, I don’t really know (how it will fit together),” Jacobson said. “That’s going to be up to (Coach Prohm). I don’t really have an answer for you, but we’re excited to get those guys back, get a little more depth in our lineup, but, to be honest, I have no idea.”
The pair’s suspensions, along with the absences of senior forward Solomon Young and sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton, who are expected to return from injuries sometime in December, also forced the Cyclones’ four talented freshmen into playing more than anybody probably expected.
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) November 27, 2018
Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most pleasant surprises of the first month of the season and continued to be so on Monday while scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and dishing four assists. At this point, it is hard for Prohm to even take the kid off the floor with the amount of energy he brings.
The shortened roster forced Talen Horton-Tucker, 14 points and six boards against Omaha, into being more of a lead player than he likely would have been with Wigginton, who entered the season as the Big 12’s leading returning scorer, and Lard, a preseason honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, in the lineup.
It opened up more minutes for young forwards George Conditt and Zion Griffin.
As much as anything, it allowed us to get a glimpse at the identity Iowa State will most likely need to carry forward in order for this year to be special rather than average.
They will need to continue to play with tenacity on both ends of the court, sharing the basketball at a high-level, getting out in transition at every opportunity, playing at a break-neck pace while out-working their opponent until the clock hits zero.
That identity has helped Iowa State reach 6-1 at the end of November. We do not know how the Cyclones will look once all those players return to the court next month, but we sure as heck know the way they are going to need to play.
“I’m not going to read too much into it. Your biggest thing is you coach the guys you’ve got and then when you get new guys, you coach those guys,” Prohm said. “I’ll sit down this week, because we haven’t played big, to say, ‘Hey, if we are going to go big, what are we going to do defensively and what are we going to do offensively?’ I’ll sit down and take some time this week to see that. But, I think the way we’re playing right now from a standpoint of playing small at times has been really good, but, obviously, Cameron’s a guy who can step in and help us and Zoran brings some things to the table and so we’ll work those guys in and I think they’ll be able to really help us. As everybody continues to buy in and be about the right things, then everything will work out. That’s what it’s about. It’s about if you can be selfless, it will all work out.”