Feb 8, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Prentiss Nixon (11) reacts during the first half against the Kansas State Wildcats at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Let’s get nuts.
Sometimes it is the only thing to do. Hang loose, act a fool, go crazy or get nuts. Let’s do it.
That’s what we did Saturday night in Hilton Coliseum as Iowa State wrapped up its weirdest win of the season — and one of the wackiest in recent memory — by topping Kansas State 73-63.
It was a game between two teams who came in tied for ninth place in the Big 12 standings. It was a game that featured Kansas State scoring two points in the first eight minutes and Iowa State building a 21-point lead in the first half.
It was a game that featured Iowa State nearly blowing said lead after the team’s best player, Tyrese Haliburton, reaggravated an injury right before halftime. That best player returned to the court to start the second half but did so more or less playing one-handed.
Kansas State was able to get back within four points before one of the biggest targets of Cyclone fans’ ire over the last two months, Prentiss Nixon, scored seven straight ISU points and pushed the lead back to eight.
Terrence Lewis scored eight of his 12 points and hit all three of his shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers, with less than four minutes left in the game. Solomon Young scored nine of his team-high 20 points after halftime, but it was the stretch to start the game, scoring 11 of the team’s first 13 points, where he imposed his will the most.
It was a weird game. It was a memorable game.
It was freaking nuts.
“The guys stepped up and we toughened up on the defensive end,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said when asked about withstanding the Wildcats’ second-half push. “That was the biggest key… We were able to weather the storm until they made the late big run.”
The biggest immediate question mark for Iowa State coming out of the win is the status of Haliburton moving forward. The sophomore point guard currently projected to be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft said he will get an MRI on Sunday.
Whatever is wrong with that left wrist is something that has been a thorn for Haliburton, who scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 25 minutes, since before Christmas. It has clearly bothered him at different points in Big 12 play and held him out of the team’s loss to Florida A&M on New Year’s Eve.
“There shouldn’t be (any thought process),” Haliburton said when asked about his decision to start the second half. “We’re 2-7. They depend on me. I’m the point guard. This is my team. It wasn’t much of a thought. It was just, ‘I’m going out there.’ But, I knew if I kept playing I was only going to hurt us more than I was going to help us. I was in a lot of pain so I told them to take me out.”
His decision to try and play after halftime was admirable, but ultimately his impact was going to be greatly lessened with only one working hand. It feels like he made the right decision when he asked to leave the game just a few minutes into a second-half, ending his night.
That is especially the case when you consider what seems to be looming just over the horizon in Haliburton’s future. Knowing what I know about him, he is unlikely to completely shut it down for the season unless a doctor makes him, but there does need to be some caution taken to prevent further damage when a draft slot and, literally, millions of dollars could hinge on his health.
“Hopefully, in the next 48 hours, we’ll know where we go from here,” Prohm said. “We need him. He’s a big part. If it’s something where we do need to sit him out for a while then the next man’s got to step up to the plate and we’ve got to be ready to roll.”
The next thing is how Iowa State will be impacted if Haliburton is not ready to play when they arrive in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday to take on an Oklahoma team that notched a huge win over West Virginia earlier in the day on Saturday.
Guys were able to step up in Haliburton’s absence on this night, but they were doing it against a team that, like Iowa State, entered the contest with just two Big 12 wins. The sophomore from Oshkosh is Iowa State’s best player in nearly every category and losing him for an extended period of time is massive in every sense of the word.
Not that anybody needs a reminder, but we already saw that version of the Cyclones once when aforementioned Florida A&M left Hilton Coliseum with, probably, the biggest win in its program’s history.
“It’s a difference (without Haliburton) because he usually plays like 40 minutes a game,” Young said. “But, when a guy goes down, a guy’s got to step up. You’ve just got to roll with it.”
In the end, this game will go down as a memorable one for so many different reasons between the impressive game-opening run, unlikely heroics and everything in between.
Sometimes you have to hang loose, act a fool or go a little crazy.
That happened Saturday night at Hilton Coliseum and it ended with an Iowa State win. With eight games left on the schedule and Haliburton’s immediate future in question, it might just have to be a reoccurring event.
So, let’s get nuts.