Jan 19, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Lindy Waters III (21) defends the shot of Iowa State Cyclones guard Marial Shayok (3) at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Cowboys 72 to 59. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Routines matter.
It’s vital to lock in the right habits, at the proper times, and on a mostly-set schedule in order to achieve any measure of success.
It’s especially important for Iowa State’s sometimes stellar, sometimes struggling 24th-ranked basketball team — which will see its well-established in-conference work/play pattern interrupted by Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12/SEC Challenge game at 20th-ranked Ole Miss.
The key to handling the change from conference play to a one-off against a solid non-league school?
Keeping those habits in tact — even as the schedule shifts swiftly off-course, then right back on-grind again next Monday when West Virginia comes to Hilton Coliseum.
“I’ve done it before,” said Cyclones guard Marial Shayok, who leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.8 points per game. “I’m going to try to remind the young guys to just stay focused, because it’s definitely different getting out of conference in the middle of the season. So just remain focused because the team that has the most focus is gonna win that game, for sure.”
Shayok said when he was at Virginia, the Cavaliers played a mid-season game against Villanova, so he knows what to expect.
That’s not the case for ISU’s top-performing true freshmen such as Tyrese Haliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker, who will certainly benefit from Shayok’s mentorship — as well as Nick Weiler-Babb’s and other more seasoned Cyclones.
“It’s just another good opportunity to go get a win,” said Haliburton, who boasts a 5.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is shooting 55 percent from the floor. “They’re a top-25 team. They’re a really tough team. It will be a good opportunity for us to get out of conference a little bit and play somebody that we’re not used to (playing). Just a new look at somebody.”
Variety can help spice of the 18-game regular season Big 12 slog, as well. Couple that will playing a quality foe that deploys zone pressure on a regular basis on defense, and attacks efficiently on offense, and the switch could reap resume-boosting rewards — if ISU’s able to learn and grow from it’s defensive lapses in the second half of Monday’s four-point loss at No. 9 Kansas.
“They did a great job with spacing us out, so give them their credit, from that standpoint, but, (still), it has a lot to do with were’t up guarding the ball,” Prohm said of how the Cyclones played down the stretch in Lawrence — Particularly during a 14-0 Jayhawks’ run. “We weren’t jump switching like we were supposed to. We weren’t in gaps. We just weren’t very good defensively.”
Shayok’s convinced those deficiencies will be corrected, as usual for an ISU team that owns two wins over top-10 teams and ranks in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
“I think our switching was kind of off,” Shayok said. “We’re gonna watch film after practice to figure out exactly what was going on, but I think our switching was kind of slow. Just a little bit of everything we could do better and it’s something we definitely can improve on.”
The Cyclones (14-5, 4-3 Big 12) have largely excelled at switching off screens this season, but lapses must be minimized — especially when they’re in typical four-guard mode.
ISU failed to do a good job of staying in front of their man Monday at KU, as well, which the Jayhawks exploited by attacking the rim.
“We’ve just got to stay the course,” Prohm said. “I just told the other guys, ‘Here’s where we sit. We’re a game behind Kansas (and Kansas State). We’ve got 11 to go. We’ve got to play Ole Miss this week. It’s a great opportunity to go get a really, really good road win that can help us in a lot of facets going down the road. But then we’re coming back next week for two really big home games, and it’s a quick week again, because it’s another Wednesday Saturday Monday. And West Virginia starting on Wednesday. It seems like we’re always playing them after the Big 12/SEC game, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
At least once the Mountaineers come to town, the routine will be restored. So far, ISU’s impressed Prohm with its ability to bounce back from tough losses — three in conference by a combined 10 points, and remain focused, both short-term and long-term.
“I like our group,” Prohm said. “I texted them all (Tuesday). Man, I love our team and I think we have a chance to do some really, really good things.”