Jan 11, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) celebrates their win against the Oklahoma Sooners at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Sooners 81 to 68. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — There’s such a thing as being too patient. Too exacting. Too focused on distributing and not taking a chance by forcing the issue offensively.
That’s the message Iowa State coach Steve Prohm has amplified for his star sophomore guard, Tyrese Haliburton, whose all-around game is both elite and unique — and vital to any success the Cyclones can muster the rest of this season.
“I think he needs to be aggressive in nature,” said Prohm, who hopes Haliburton can help ISU (8-7, 1-2 Big 12) spring a major upset in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. matchup at No. 2 Baylor. “I think all great players, man, they may take a bad shot or two throughout the course of the game but he doesn’t take too many bad shots. Maybe some deep 3s, but I think he always needs to be in attack mode and be aggressive. He’s proven that he can do that.”
Haliburton gets it, but it’s not in the 6-5 projected NBA Lottery pick’s nature to accept taking any bad shot when he knows something better could possibly be created.
“I always try to make the right read, so I feel like sometimes when I do take bad shots, I just kind of get frustrated because I think we can get a better shot at times,” Haliburton said. “Taking those bad shots, it irritates me a little bit because I know we can get a better one and I can get a better one. But that just comes with having a new role this year.”
That new role requires him to flash his usual ultra-efficiency — he ranks 14th nationally, per KenPom, in assist rate at 39.1 — along with his ability to be explosive both beyond the arc and on forays into the paint.
Haliburton’s shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range in his last four games, but hasn’t gotten to the free throw line in the last two.
So it’s time to stoke his engine of aggressiveness, especially against the Bears (13-1, 3-0), who are fifth in the country, according to KenPom, in defensive efficiency (85.5), and are coming off a 12-point win at sixth-ranked Kansas.
“Kind of the same thing as last year,” Haliburton said of Baylor. “They just play so hard all game long. They don’t really take breaks and they have a lot of guys that come in the game and they play just as hard, go to the glass really hard. That’s just kind of what their program values. They’re a really good team so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
He’s working on meeting Prohm’s latest challenge to him, as well. So consider his personal push for augmented assertiveness to be a work in progress.
“I’ve definitely made strides but there’s always opportunities where, you know, I’m not taking I could definitely improve on,” Haliburton said. “I think basketball’s just a game of reads and mistakes and sometimes you don’t make the right read, sometimes you do.”
He often does — even as opposing teams concertedly game plan to curtail his impact on a game.
“What teams are doing now, they’re just kind of loading up on me, doubling me, making me pass,” Haliburton said. “Making other guys beat them.”
That’s what happened Saturday against Oklahoma and his teammates rose to the challenge in an 81-68 win that snapped a three-game skid. Tre Jackson and Terrence Lewis combined for 22 points off the bench as players played generally shorter stints and the starting lineup was changed to get big man George Conditt IV more early looks.
“It doesn’t matter how much you play,” Haliburton said. “It’s easy for me to say because I play a lot of minutes, but with other guys, too, it’s something we talk about as a team; something that guys have to know coming in, because I think we all have the same mentality that we just want to win. Forget everything else.”
Except for engaging attack mode more frequently— on Saturday in Waco and beyond.
“I just think he has to know when we need him to make plays for us to score,” Prohm said.