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Basketball

STANZ: Cyclones’ semester ending win could be sign of things to come

We all knew this Iowa State team would be much more talented than last year’s and on Friday we got our first opportunity to fully see that come to fruition. The Cyclones rolled to a 101-53 win over Eastern Illinois in their last game before the holiday break and, perhaps more importantly, their first game this season with the entire roster at their disposal.

Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young returned from their injuries. Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley have been back from their suspensions for several weeks. Iowa State is officially at full strength – as exhibited by the 48-point evisceration of a not terrible Eastern Illinois team.

“Eastern Illinois won at Bradley the other night. Went in there and beat them by seven. Bradley beat Penn State. Bradley beat SMU. Eastern Illinois beat Gardner-Webb, they just won at Georgia Tech,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “In college basketball, you have to be dialed in. I don’t think we played well in the last game before Christmas last year. I thought we were sloppy. I thought we were stagnant. I didn’t think we played the right way. That was our biggest focus today, finishing the right way.”

The Cyclones certainly did finish the first semester and their 10-2 run through non-conference play the right way. They shot 57 percent from the floor and knocked down 11 3-pointers. They dished out 28 assists with only five turnovers. They compiled a 50-to-22 advantage in points in the paint and a 15-to-0 advantage on fast breaks.

This was one of Iowa State’s best performances of the season and it should not come as a surprise it happened once they finally reached full strength. Marial Shayok scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Michael Jacobson added 15 points and five rebounds on 7-of-9 from the field.

The man of the night, Wigginton, scored 15 points despite going 0-of-5 from 3-point range in his first action since spraining his foot in Iowa State’s season-opener.

“I felt I played hard,” Wigginton said. “Obviously, I’m still trying to get my conditioning and stuff back, but I thought I played hard and we got a team win with 28 assists.”

The biggest question with Wigginton and Young’s return was how they would fare in sliding into the team’s winning formula through the first 11 games. They have been able to win games by sharing the ball, moving it at a high-pace, getting into transition and defending at a high-level.

Not only did their transition back onto the court seem to come easily, it took the offense to another level. Wigginton was as good as we have ever seen him at finding open guys and making the right play.

He was pushing the ball ahead in transition and helping his teammates create open looks just as much as he was trying to create them for himself. We got our first look at how good this team can be with its full complement of players and it should be scary for Big 12 teams when you consider this was just game one.

“It was great having Lindell and Solo back,” Shayok said. “He got a lot of guys open shots. Even if they didn’t make them, he made the right play and it was good to have him back. Solo was a force down low and he hit a big shot. Both of them are going to continue to improve and get their rhythm back and help us down the road.”

Iowa State now enters Big 12 play in a position few people probably imagined when it was announced Wigginton would be out until mid-December with the foot injury. Add in Young’s injury, Lard and Talley’s suspensions and it felt like this season was already slipping before they got going.

Not only did this team hold its own, but it also showed us all it could be capable of more than we ever dreamed during the offseason. Shayok has proven to be one of the best scorers in the Big 12. The group of freshmen has improved every time they have stepped on the court with Tyrese Haliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker leading the way.

Jacobson has played like an All-Big 12 type guy when most people were hoping for a serviceable big man off the bench. Now, Wigginton is back to take this team to another level.

Iowa State was back at full strength on Friday and we might have gotten a preview of the things to come.

“I thought we had a good finish to the semester,” Prohm said. “I think we’re at a good place when I look at all the things I analyze. The biggest focus for us is two things at the end of the day. We’ve got to get better defensively and we’ve got to be selfless. If we can do those two things, we’re going to be good.”

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.

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