Jan 2, 2019; Stillwater, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) dribbles the ball past Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Isaac Likekele (13) during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Hilton Coliseum
KenPom Prediction: 77-64, Iowa State
1 – Maintaining Momentum
Following Iowa State’s huge home win over Kansas a couple weeks ago, the Cyclones became one of the talks of college basketball. They were considered one of the prime challengers for Kansas’ throne atop the Big 12 and jumped back into the top-25.
Everything quickly came crashing back to Earth with back-to-back losses to Baylor and Kansas State, but Wednesday night’s win in Lubbock over No. 8 Texas Tech has them back in the conversation to contend for the league title.
Being able to handle that hype against an overmatched Oklahoma State team will be absolutely crucial with another showdown with the Jayhawks looming on Monday.
“It’s important to just come out every day and work,” sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton said. “Work in practice and then bring it into the game. Just bring energy every day and every time you step on the floor.”
2 – Maybe McGriff?
The Cowboys find themselves in a sticky situation entering Saturday’s game. Head coach Mike Boynton announced earlier this week the dismissal of three players from the team, including Michael Weathers, who was averaging 9.2 points and 2.1 assists per game so far this season.
Add in the mutual parting of ways with Mike Cunningham and the Cowboys suddenly have a very shorthanded roster coming into Hilton Coliseum. Heck, they literally held walk-on tryouts just a couple days ago.
“I don’t know what they’ll do. We lived it last year. We had about six we went to West Virginia with so it’s tough. Sometimes people say, ‘Well, you only play seven or eight, it’s not a big deal,’ but when you only have that many it’s different,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “What they do, if they change some things defensively, if they change their pace offensively, I don’t know. We won’t know until we get into the game. They beat us twice last year. We were fortunate, Lindell made a big shot down there a couple weeks ago or up there a couple weeks ago. They’re a team facing a little bit of adversity like we were the other night in Lubbock so we’ve preached to our guys the last couple days that you’re getting their best test. We’ve got to be dialed in for that.”
In the first meeting between these two teams, a 69-63 Iowa State in Stillwater earlier this month, the Cowboys were led by 15 points apiece from Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters. Both players have been mainstays in the Oklahoma State lineup the past two seasons and will likely have to take on even bigger roles now.
Luckily, Iowa State is very familiar with the style Boynton’s teams play with after facing his team once along with his mentor Brad Underwood’s Illinois squad earlier in the season.
“We kind of do what we do. We’ve played against the style of defense. They’ll change it up play some zone, play the pressure over-playing man. This will be our third time this year we’ve seen that, including Illinois back in Maui,” Prohm said. “I think we understand what we need to do against it. Offense really comes down to spacing and sharing the ball and getting good movement and cutting the right way.”
3 – Protecting Home Court
If Iowa State is really going to stick in the Big 12 race, they cannot afford for any more slip-ups in Hilton Coliseum. Last week’s loss to Kansas State feels like an anomaly and adding the win at Texas Tech got the Cyclones back on track, but they need to handle business at home the rest of the way.
The door is open for someone to steal Kansas’ crown and taking care of business in Ames needs to be priority No. 1 if it is going to be Iowa State.
“I looked at KenPom last night and it had us as the No. 1 league again. The league is good. When you only have 10 teams, there’s really not a bottom. Winning on the road, you’ve got to try to get as many as you can and it’s tough, but you’ve got to protect home,” Prohm said. “That’s what we didn’t do last Saturday and that’s what we’ve got to do tomorrow. That’s a game we’ve got to take care of.”