Dec 6, 2018; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Terrence Lewis (24) drives to the basket as Iowa Hawkeyes forward Nicholas Baer (51) defends during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Wells Fargo Arena
KenPom Prediction: 85-70, Iowa State
1 – Containing Nick Norton
The graduate transfer guard from UAB has been one of the biggest keys to Drake’s surprising 6-1 start to the season. Norton, a 5-foot-10 Bloomington, Ill. native, is 12th nationally in assist rate and averages 6.3 dimes per game to go along with 15 points.
Only two players in college basketball have dished out 17 assists in a single game this season – Norton and Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton.
“Norton’s really good,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “I’ve been really impressed with Norton. He brings a confidence to their team.”
Drake is at its best when Norton is at his best, most notably his 18-point, 17-assist performance in the team’s win over North Dakota State. He is one of a handful of key additions to Drake’s roster that have made huge impacts during Darian Devries’ first season in Des Moines.
“I think Darian’s done a great job,” Prohm said. “He’s brought in some immediate guys, some fifth-year guys that have really impacted his program I think culture wise and just style of play. They can spread you out.”
2 – Keeping Drake off the 3-point line
The Bulldogs’ ability to shoot the basketball was noted by Prohm as the thing that sticks out the most to him on film. As a team, Drake shoots nearly 35 percent from behind the arc and has four guys shooting better than 35 percent so far this season.
Keeping the Bulldogs’ shooters uncomfortable and not allowing them to develop a rhythm shooting the ball will be one of the game’s biggest keys.
“A lot of ball pressure. Play better on-ball defense so we don’t have to help as much in the gaps and then contest shots,” Senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb said of defending the Bulldogs. “If we contest shots and make the shots that they do take tough, that’s what we want to do.”
3 – Finish the semester strong
Much like students taking their finals, Iowa State basketball hopes they can close the semester on a strong note. Saturday’s game in the final Big Four Classic will be a good first step towards that goal with one last hurdle awaiting next week against Eastern Illinois.
This will also presumably be the Cyclones’ final game with Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young, giving the team a blank slate of sorts entering a long holiday break before Big 12 play starts on Jan. 2.
“Drake’s really good. I’ve been really impressed with them,” Prohm said. “Going on a neutral site, we have to play really well on Saturday. That’s all my focus is right now. Finish the semester well. We have to bring our A-game on Saturday.”