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Basketball

STANZ: Basketball is fun and Iowa State is having fun

Jan 30, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Michael Jacobson (12) grabs a rebound against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Mountaineers 93-68. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — “Game – activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.”

This is the Meriam-Webster definition of the word “game.” Basketball is a game. Basketball is supposed to be fun. It is fun right now for this year’s Iowa State men’s basketball team.

It was especially fun during Wednesday night’s 93-68 romp of Big 12 bottom-dweller West Virginia. The No. 20 Cyclones made 54.5 percent of their shots from the field. They went to the free throw line 33 times and made 29 of them. They forced 19 turnovers that turned into 29 points.

This does not look like a team concerned about suddenly being projected as the favorite to win the Big 12 by some computers. This looks like a team having fun playing basketball.

“I tell them all the time to put the pressure on me. Put the pressure on the coach. The kids shouldn’t have any pressure. This should be fun for them,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “That’s what I’ve always told all my teams. They should have no pressure. Throw the pressure at the coach and let him deal with it. They need to have fun and just play. Tyrese doesn’t feel any pressure. He’s doing the wind-up deal before the game. He has no pressure. He’s 18. They’ve got no pressure. This is fun. It should be fun. If it’s not fun, then it will be pressure. As long as they’re doing the motorcycle before the game or whatever that is, they’re good.”

We all know Tyrese Haliburton is always having fun when he’s on a basketball court. It is not hard to figure out when he is flashing that million dollar smile every few minutes.

Lindell Wigginton is having fun. He had a ton of fun against the Mountaineers pouring in a season-high 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line. The sophomore guard from Canada is starting to look like his old self again.

That is pretty fun for everyone.

“I think this is what we expected. We knew we had a good team coming into the season just going through summer workouts and things like that,” Wigginton said. “We knew we had a good team. We built chemistry in the summer. Going forward, we’ve got to continue building chemistry and playing together as a team.”

Marial Shayok is probably having a lot more fun than he did while playing in arguably the least fun system in college basketball. I am sure winning at Virginia was a lot of fun, but scoring what his head coach described as a “quiet 18” points against the Mountaineers and leading the Big 12 in scoring is a lot of fun, too.

Nick Weiler-Babb is having fun. After having his frustrating junior season cut short by an injury, Babb is helping lead one of the Big 12’s best teams and did so again on Wednesday by scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds, snagging four steals and dishing three assists.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is not having fun. His team has fallen far from where they were the past few seasons. It was fun for Cyclone fans to watch him meltdown leading to an ejection late in the second half at Hilton Coliseum, but there is no doubt one of college basketball’s best coaches is not enjoying this season.

“No knock on them but everybody shoots a high percentage against us. We suck,” Huggins said. “They’re good. They’re good. I admire greatly guys like Weiler-Babb who came in and really wasn’t a polished guard. He is now. He’s made himself a good shooter. They put four guys out there who can bounce it, straight-line people. They do a great job of spacing. They’re good. They’re good. Steve does a terrific job.”

Huggins’ last point is a great one. Prohm has done a terrific job in managing this team to the point where it appears as though they will hit its peak just at the right time in the season — as he did in 2016 and 2017. You can tell Prohm is having fun, waving his arms like a madman to rally the Hilton Coliseum crowd on consecutive possessions against the Mountaineers.

Iowa State fans are having fun — or at least they should be. This team is good. This team is fun. Basketball is a game. Games are fun.

There is a lot of fun left to have this season.

“All that I know right now is we’re going for that No. 1 spot (in the Big 12),” Weiler-Babb said. “Everybody in the league one through 10 is a good team. You can’t take any days off. West Virginia’s not playing well right now, but they’re still a great team. Their record doesn’t give them any justice. They have a great team. They have a great coach. Everybody 1-10 is good and you can’t take any nights off.”

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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