Dec 8, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm talks to guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Toughness, toughness, toughness.
Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm stresses molding that mettle-based quality so much, it’s become a sometimes grating, but always required underlying soundtrack to each strenuous practice and post-game film session.
“Our coaching staff has challenged us a lot, especially lately, just coming home from the Bahamas trip and kind of definitely getting out-toughed in the first Seton Hall game,” said Cyclones star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who hopes to showcase his myriad skills along with grit in Thursday’s 7 p.m. (ESPN2) Cy-Hawk matchup with Iowa at Hilton Coliseum. “You know, to be honest with you, it got kind of annoying after a while so it was time to put up or shut up.”
ISU reached that crucial crossroads in Sunday’s rematch with the talented and uber-physical Pirates — and the Cyclones definitely “put up.” ISU held No. 22 Seton Hall to 45 percent two-point shooting and 27 percent three-point shooting while crafting a 16-point edge in made free throws.
In short: the Cyclones (6-3) made the tough plays, again and again — and need to “put up” yet again against the extremely efficient and sometimes explosive Hawkeyes (7-3), who already own wins this season over Texas Tech and Syracuse.
“It’s gonna be a great test to see if we can make another step defensively,” said Prohm, who is 2-2 all-time against Iowa. The game is going to be intense. But substance is going to win. And, you know, looking back on the game from last year (on film) this morning, you know, we just got worked. We physically got whipped. We got beat on both ends of the floor and we’ve got to respond from a standpoint of having great substance and character and toughness on the defensive end. We’ve got to play better defense and then we did the other night, because of how good offensively they are.”
The Hawkeyes’ strength lies in its diverse sources for scoring. Iowa ranks fourth nationally in offensive efficiency according to KenPom. Big man Luka Garza is currently seventh in KenPom’s player of the year power rankings.
“Looking forward to going against him,” said ISU’s athletic sixth man, George Conditt IV, who boast an 18 percent block percentage, which is second-best nationally per KenPom.
Garza’s obviously going to be a tough guard both inside and out for Conditt and Solomon Young— but he’s not the lone threat the Hawks’ deploy.
Joe Wieskamp is a rangy, but athletic guard who can slash to the hoop and deliver daggers from deep, while C.J. Fredrick supplies offensive punch off the bench.
Then there’s the tip of the spear in point guard Jordan Bohannon — who may or may not shut it down after Thursday’s rivalry game in hopes of gaining one more full season of eligibility via a medical redshirt.
“I think he’s a winner,” Prohm said. “He’s a tough kid. He competes the right way. He gives them another guy that you’ve really got to guard on the perimeter, that can space you out and he’s their point guard. … He brings some toughness, he brings great leadership and he brings the ability to really, really make big shots for them.”
The Cyclones have won seven of the past 10 meetings in the Cy-Hawk Series and the home team has prevailed in 14 of the past 16 matchups. So Hilton’s “magic” must meld with ISU’s emerging toughness in order to all the Cyclones to forge a 13th straight non-conference home win.
“It’s a lot of emotion,” Young said. “People love to see this game.”
And it’s grit and moxie that turn seeing into believing. Toughness on the defensive end has been a baby steps proposition most of the season for ISU, which has gradually climbed KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings.
The Cyclones sit at a respectable 56th now — so “annoying” or not, Prohm’s demands for toughness are working.
The ascent must continue.
“I mean, he probably gets on me a lot more than he does other people in film and things like that, which I accept,” said Haliburton, who ranks 15th nationally in both assist rate (40.1) and fouls committed per 40 minutes (1.0). “I mean, that’s the challenge I take on with this team and that’s all right with me. … So I know for me personally it just got, like I said, it got annoying. Like, it just got under my skin a little bit, you know, but he’s supposed to do that. He’s supposed to challenge us as our coach and he obviously knows what he’s doing pretty well.”