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Basketball

WILLIAMS: The Cyclones responded to adversity exactly as you’d hope

Jan 19, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State’s Marial Shayok shoots over the top of Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Thomas Dziagwa (4) at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — “A person’s true nature is revealed at times of greatest adversity.”

I included that famous quote in last week’s Monday Musings column referring to the climate surrounding Iowa State basketball. After a 2-0 start to the conference season, the Cyclones had surprisingly dropped two in a row against Baylor and Kansas State – teams they were favored against and according to “experts,” should have beaten.

Iowa State was quietly tested following its 17-point victory over No. 5 Kansas on Jan. 5. If they didn’t fail, the Cyclones escaped the second week of January with a D. 

The next challenge for this group – its toughest test yet – was bouncing back from a hefty helping of adversity. 

I give them an A-plus.

Iowa State put a cherry on top of Wednesday’s 68-64 upset over No. 8 Texas Tech with a  72-59 win over Oklahoma State – exactly what you are SUPPOSED to do inside of the historic cathedral known as Hilton Coliseum. 

“You’ve just got to keep growing,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said after the game. “We just finished the first third of the season. We’re 4-2 and we have to move forward from here.”

The win wasn’t perfect but in a polarized world featuring overreactions from the masses that seem to follow every loss, recognize the nature in which this group bounced back following a tough couple of games.

The last week of Cyclone basketball was very impressive.

Put the macro stuff aside for a moment and notice the pockets of improvement within the team.

First and foremost, the duo of Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard is clearly playing its best basketball of the season.

Wigginton, who Prohm said on Friday will soon be returning to the starting lineup, went 4-of-7 from 3-point range to score an efficient 14 points in 25 minutes vs. the Cowboys.

Speaking of efficient, Lard notched 12 (with five rebounds and three blocks) in only 14 minutes.

“He’s obviously got an ability to change shots at the rim,” said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton. “He brings great energy. He plays really hard and chases loose balls. His energy affected the game today.”

Meanwhile, the Big 12’s leading scorer Marial Shayok continued to put his foot on the gas this week with two 20 point performances.

“He’s a veteran kid,” Boynton said. “He’s been around the block. He’s not afraid of that moment. He has been there time and time again and continues to deliver for them.”

Still not excited about the Cyclones? Take a look at the current landscape of the Big 12 because Saturday was eventful.

— Kansas was beaten by a previously 0-5 West Virginia team (that lost by 31 to TCU earlier in the week).

— Texas Tech, who would have been in sole possession of first place with a win, dropped its second game in a row – to Baylor – 73-62.

— Staring down the barrel of a road trip to Lawrence on Monday (8 p.m. on ESPN), Iowa State is currently in a four-way tie for first place in the Big 12 with the Jayhawks, Texas Tech and Kansas State (Baylor is half a game back at 3-2).

— And about those Wildcats…Kansas State beat TCU 65-55 on Saturday and has rattled off four in a row.

— Baylor, who handed Iowa State its first Big 12 loss of the season, looks pretty good right now too.

You get the point.

“It can turn at any time,” said Wigginton. “One team can have a great week and the next week it can go bad. The Big 12 is tough. It is a grind. We have to bring it every day.”

Think of a college basketball season – especially the grueling round-robin Big 12 – as an adventure novel.

There are ups and there are downs. Every game is a different chapter and every chapter gets you closer to the conclusion. 

How will this season conclude for the Cyclones?

Your guess is as good as mine. But I feel a lot more optimistic about a happy ending than I did a week ago. 

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