Nov 27, 2019; Nassau, BHS; Iowa State Cyclones forward George Conditt IV (4) shoots over Michigan Wolverines forward Colin Castleton (11) during the first half at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Shorter stints, higher sustained intensity.
In short, that’s a substitution strategy Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm hinted he may employ Saturday against Oklahoma — and, perhaps, down the line.
“If it’s instead of keeping guys out there until 14, 13 (minutes remain in a half), hey, man, maybe 16?” Prohm said Friday in advance of tomorrow’s 7 p.m. Big 12 matchup with the Sooners (11-3, 2-0). “I talked to them about that yesterday, just to where, ‘Man, great energy, great pace, next man up.’”
Pace, flow and ball movement form the basis of the Cyclones’ offense. Stagnancy in one, two or all three of those components at times is a big reason ISU is 7-7 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
The athletic Sooners, who won at Texas, 72-62, on Wednesday, provide a suitable test case for changing up substitution patterns — but that’s not all.
Prohm was asked if suffering a third-straight loss meant he might tweak the starting lineup. His brief, but perhaps telling, answer?
“Yeah,” Prohm said. “There’s a possibility I may change something.”
Prohm has said several times dating back to last season he “should have” played rim-running big man George Conditt IV more in certain games. Is that the possible change? Or is it more likely a reserve guard such as Tre Jackson, or athletic backup forward such as Zion Griffin, gets added to the mix?
It’s anyone’s guess, so stay tuned.
What’s certain and obvious is the Cyclones desperately need a win considering both recent results and the immediate future slate. After Saturday, ISU will play four of its next five games against teams currently populating KenPom’s top 27 — including two matchups with Baylor and a Big 12/SEC Challenge road date with No. 11 Auburn. The Cyclones will, of course, be heavy underdogs in those games, but they see opportunity where most others see futility.
“We’re all we’ve got,” ISU guard Prentiss Nixon said. “People are writing us off. We’re what, 7-7? People are going to say we can’t do anything but at the end of the day, we have 16 (conference) games left to play. That’s a lot of basketball left to play to prove ourselves and we’ve got to stick together, man. We’re all we have at the end of the day. Just stay together and keep working hard, some special things can happen.”
Not if they Cyclones can’t show dramatic improvements on both sides of the ball against Oklahoma, which features a trio of big-time scorers in Kristian Doolittle, Brady Manek and Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves.
Doolittle is averaging a team-best 17.3 points per game, shoots 53.8 percent from 3-point range (14 of 26) and leads the Sooners with 9.0 rebounds per game.
Manek’s shooting 37.7 percent from deep and Reaves is a quick, rangy guard who averages 16.4 points and excels in getting to the free-throw line.
“We’ve got to keep (Doolittle) out of the paint and really limit those shots,” Prohm said. “But Reaves and Manek really from 3. Manek’s release is so fast, he gets it off so quick to where you can’t leave any room. You’ve got to be on his right hand and make him bounce it right away. Reaves, percentages aren’t great, but we had recruited him when he was transferring from Wichita and we know his ability to really score and shoot the basketball. And Doolittle, like I said, you can’t give him open 3s off their big ball screens, different things like that. We’ve got to get out and contest, but I think at the end of the day, Doolittle really wants to get to 15, 17 feet.”
The Cyclones just want and need to get back in the ‘W’ column for the first time since Dec. 22. And that means belief must vanquish self-doubt, however the minutes are divvied up.
“Always be positive,” said Jackson, who had four rebounds, three assists and two steals in the Kansas rout. “(When) all these negatives are going on, you’ve got to stay positive because something good is going to come out of everything that’s going bad right now. We’ve just got to keep on playing and coming together as a family.”