Jan 29, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) is fouled by Baylor Bears forward Tristan Clark (25) at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Scott Drew stepped to the podium and delivered the usual pleasantries expected of a coach leaving Hilton Coliseum with a convincing victory.
He complimented the environment and the fans. He noted the importance of limiting Iowa State’s runs and keeping the Cyclones from heating up behind the 3-point line.
Then, following No. 1 Baylor’s 67-53 win over Iowa State on Wednesday, Drew’s attention turned in a slightly different direction.
“The toughest thing in coaching is sometimes you can come up with a play and get a guy a wide-open shot and he misses it. You can run a play and it’s terrible, breaks down and the guy throws something in off the glass,” Drew, whose team moved to 18-1 and 7-0 in Big 12 play with no signs of slowing down, said. “The reason I want to say that is I know Steve Prohm is probably one of the classiest guys in our profession. He works his butt off, does an unbelievable job recruiting, he’s found a lot of players, gotten them to the league quicker than they ever expected. I know that makes it tougher some seasons.”
Toughness was a theme on Wednesday following a game in which Iowa State trailed by only five with 12:29 left in the second half. That was the moment when an offensive foul call prompted Prohm’s anger to boil over, drawing a technical foul.
At that point, the wheels fell off. The Bears started to impose their will, flex their muscles and put their toughness on display.
Drew’s team went into the under-eight media timeout with a 16-point lead. Their lead in the toughness and physicality category in unmeasurable.
“I don’t know. Baylor’s a well-oiled machine right now. Physically tough, mentally tough. Those dudes are locked and loaded,” Prohm said when asked what it takes to match that physicality and toughness. “I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer for that question. You watch us play the Seton Hall game here and we were tough. But, it’s the mental and physical toughness to sustain it over time. That’s on me, too. Getting a technical, getting upset, it’s a physical game so you’re probably not going to see everything. You can’t lose your emotions. You’ve got to stay the course.”
There is really not much more analysis to do at this point when it comes to this season’s Iowa State basketball team. We can talk about the poor jump shooting, the poor jump shooting defense, transition defense, the often stagnant offense or whatever else we want to until we are blue in the face.
All this really boils down to is most every time Iowa State has faced a team considerably better or tougher than them, they have hung around for 25-to-30 minutes before falling completely by the wayside in the last 10 minutes.
It happened on Wednesday. It happened two Wednesdays ago in Waco and the Saturday after that in Lubbock. To an extent, the same can be said about the loss to Iowa, although, the Cyclones dug themselves a hole earlier in that one before trying to claw out and, ultimately, getting pushed back into the hole with a Hawkeye run roughly halfway through the second half.
The only exceptions at this point are that win over Seton Hall, a game the Pirates played mostly without their second-best player, and the loss to Kansas, which Iowa State never really competed in at all.
“(Baylor)’s a team where you’ve got to saw wood. If you’ve ever head that expression, you’ve got to saw wood, because they aren’t changing their composure whether up 12 or down 12,” Prohm said. “You watch them play Oklahoma State or you watch them play games where they led from start to finish, they understand their roles. They are physical but they’re physical on both ends. That’s why they’re 18-1 or whatever they are.”
Wednesday night further solidified the idea of Baylor being the best team in this conference by a considerable margin. I have not seen every team in college basketball team play, but their No. 1 ranking is more than warranted.
I have a hard time thinking there are many teams out there right now who would beat the Bears. That team comes prepared for a fight each and every night, but they do it in a composed manner.
That’s what happens when your rotation is comprised of two seniors, three juniors, two true sophomores and a redshirt sophomore. These guys are old men compared to the team Prohm puts on the floor twice a week in this league.
“We need a third guy. We need a third guy,” Prohm said. “The way people are guarding Tyrese (Haliburton), we had some open looks in the first half, we’ve got to make some of those. We’ve got to make some of those. Rasir (Bolton) was 4-for-8 but the rest of the team was 0-for-9.”
The Cyclones right now are truly a two-pronged attack with Bolton and Haliburton, who scored 19 and 17 points, respectively, against Baylor. Once you get past those two guys, you get a long list of inconsistencies.
Solomon Young has been good in spurts and George Conditt has as well, but spurts and stretches are not enough in this league, especially when you’re playing a Baylor team that Prohm very aptly described earlier as a well-oiled machine. Terrence Lewis shows flashes then does not play more than a few minutes the following game.
Tre Jackson and Caleb Grill are not ready to be stepping into huge roles at this point. Michael Jacobson and Prentiss Nixon are seniors who are what they are at this point in their careers.
But, then again, that’s where you are going to end up when only four players remain from a pair of signing classes in 2017 and 2018 that originally included seven signees, and two of those four, Zion Griffin and Terrence Lewis, hardly play.
Really, that is what Iowa State is facing right now and the unfortunate fact of the matter is absolutely nothing can be done about it in the season unless someone suddenly steps up to play at a consistently high-level.
Reality is, on some level, Iowa State and Prohm have become victims of their own success. That’s how you end up with an opposing coach at the podium unloading an unprompted defense.
“I respect the heck out of the job he does as far as the recruiting realm and how he executes on the court,” Drew said. “I just wanted to make sure I said that. I know sometimes we forget how good coaches are. I really respect him.”