Basketball

STANZ: This is a broken basketball team

Mar 6, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm and West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins talks to an official after a double technical foul was issued during the second half at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

If Saturday afternoon’s loss in Austin was a disaster, what should we call what happened in Morgantown on Wednesday night? Iowa State lost 90-75 to the lowly Mountaineers, a team that had won three times since the start of 2019 prior to this game.

“If it can change this fast, we can change it back this fast,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said after the game, according to the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines. “It’s a bad three-week stretch. Texas Tech had a 2-4 stretch then won eight in a row. Just got to get on focus. I don’t have a great answer to give you. Obviously, I’m more frustrated than anybody. I’m the head coach. I’m the leader, represent a great university. Obviously, let a lot of people down. Not in terms of our record but in terms of the way we’re playing right now. That’s why we’re letting people down.”

Now, we could talk about the 18 offensive rebounds Iowa State allowed or the 40.7 percent shooting from 3-point range for West Virginia. We could talk about Iowa State’s continually stagnant offense or… Well… I don’t even know what else to list …  just pretend I threw another on-court thing in here.

It is time to really come face-to-face with whatever is happening to this basketball team off the court. We all heard the rumors that swirled during the day on Wednesday after it was announced Marial Shayok would miss the game after suffering an injury to his left foot during Monday’s practice.

“Just so everybody can clear the narrative on this, we had a really physical practice Monday, because we needed one,” Prohm said. “Kind of went back to old school, preseason type practice because we needed to get some of the softness out. Get back to some physicality. It carried over a little bit. That’s it. No more, no less than that. No big story, happens all the time. Been a head coach eight years, had it happen every year at some point.”

Only people who were in the gym at the Sukup Basketball Complex on Monday know the full story. But, we could clearly see what happened on the court when Michael Jacobson tried to get Talen Horton-Tucker into a huddle with roughly six minutes left in the game and the Cyclones trailing by 15 points on Wednesday.

Jacobson motioned at Iowa State’s freshman star to get into the huddle. Horton-Tucker verbally responded. The two exchanged words and had to be settled down by teammates. Even an official tried to get in between them.

“I saw the tail end of it,” Prohm said. “It’s probably a lot bigger on TV than it (really) was. More so just trying to get guys in the huddle from when I asked about it in the locker room. Nothing more than that… I think it was more so just guys trying to get in the huddle. Obviously, when you’re in a losing streak, tensions are going to be a little bit higher than if you’ve won seven in a row. We’ve got to all handle that better.”

When officials are breaking up arguments between teammates, things have hit rock bottom. This, a March Wednesday in Morgantown, was rock bottom for Iowa State basketball in 2018-19.

What does it take to fix it?

I have no clue. It sure seems like nobody inside the program has an idea either with the way things have spiraled out of control over the last several weeks.

This is a broken basketball team.

They were a broken basketball team the majority of the month of February. It felt like things were turning around when they went to Manhattan and beat one of the league’s co-leaders. They did not turn around. It felt like things were turning around when they beat Oklahoma, who housed Kansas on Tuesday to end the Jayhawks’ reign atop the league, at home last Monday.

They have not turned around.

It could happen on Saturday when another of the league’s co-leaders, Texas Tech, visits Hilton Coliseum but is anyone holding their breath for that at this point? I know I’m not.

The Cyclones shot 43.8 percent from the field in Morgantown. I wrote in my pregame prediction this could be a game in which Horton-Tucker and Lindell Wigginton could find a rhythm. They followed that up by combining for 28 points on 10-of-24 shooting from the field, which isn’t terrible but really doesn’t feel like finding a rhythm.

Iowa State can play with anyone in the Big 12 and most anyone in the country when they’re a team. Merriam Webster defines the word team as “a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.”

The group of players we saw on Wednesday hardly fits that definition. If they don’t figure out a way to fit it, this season could come to an end a lot sooner than any of us hoped or expected.

“Three weeks ago, the narrative on us were we’re really talented, we space the floor, we share the ball, right?” Prohm said. “Now, the narrative on us is we’re soft. Three weeks. There’s a lot of things that you can talk about with the outside world. Social media, thinking about further ahead, worrying about the wrong things, being able to handle success, being able to handle adversity. How do you deal with all that stuff? Our job is to build men. That’s the best thing anybody’s ever told me one time… We do. We have a lot of youth on this team but we want to build men. That’s the No. 1 goal. Right now, we’re not playing like men.”

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared is in his seventh year covering Iowa State football and basketball for Cyclone Fanatic. He worked as the site's intern for three years while studying Journalism in Iowa State's Greenlee School of Journalism. He started as a full-time staff writer in May 2016. He took over as the site's managing editor in January 2020. Jared spent five falls covering Iowa high school football as a reporter for KMA Radio, 1460 KXNO and 1430 KASI.