Mar 14, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm during the first half against the Baylor Bears in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 conference tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports
Later this week, the Iowa State men’s basketball team will reach the meat of its 2019-20 schedule. Not that the first 11 games of the Cyclones’ season have been without challenges, but it is during Big 12 play when teams really create whatever legacy they will leave behind.
With that said, before the Cyclones head to Fort Worth on Saturday to take on TCU, they have one last chance to make strides in front of a crowd when Florida A&M visits Hilton Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tip.
“We want to finish on the high note,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said on Monday. “Play the right way, take care of the ball, share the ball, defend, rebound and then get a lot of good momentum headed to Fort Worth this weekend.”
The Rattlers enter Tuesday night’s game as one of the worst teams in college basketball, holding a 1-9 record and coming in at No. 324 in KenPom. Simply put, this should be one last tune-up for an Iowa State team that will immediately be faced with a challenge in the Horned Frogs, who are 8-3 entering a home contest against George Mason on Monday.
Tuesday’s game will be meant as another chance for Iowa State to keep improving in the areas it has struggled during its 7-4 start to the season — namely on the boards and outside of the 3-point arc.
“We’ve got to do two things. We’ve got to rebound and we’ve got to defend the three and make threes,” Prohm said. “If we can do that, I think your record is probably a little bit better. We’re going to have a really good conference (season) if we can do those two things better.”
The Cyclones will close the non-conference portion of their schedule, aside from a late-January date with Auburn in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, near the bottom in all of college basketball in opponent offensive rebounding percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and opponent 3-point shooting percentage.
The struggles with the middle of that trio make it especially remarkable that the Cyclones currently lead the Big 12 in scoring offense at 81.4 points per game along with being second in the league in field goal percentage, behind only Kansas, at 46.6 percent. If they can sure up their work on the defensive glass and at defending the 3-point line, plus make even a fraction more shots of their own from deep, then this team suddenly looks like one that is more than capable of making a run towards March.
While fixes for those issues cannot be found overnight, they have been the biggest focuses for Prohm and his staff during their short break since the Cyclones’ win over Purdue Fort Wayne more than a week ago.
“I was sitting with Tyrese (Haliburton) the other day and we were just laughing, ‘Man, we’re [ninth] in the league in 3-point shooting and we’re [first] in the league scoring and we’re second in the league in field goal percentage,'” Prohm said. “If we even made any shots, where would we be? I think our team has to understand when we’re not making shots, you look at Kansas, you look at West Virginia, you look at Baylor, you look at those teams’ defensive numbers, they’re very good. We’ve got to get back to that. I think we’ve built on it and worked at it these last couple weeks to get better at it.”