Feb 15, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Kai Jones (22) defends Iowa State Cyclones forward Michael Jacobson (12) at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State senior Prentiss Nixon said on Thursday that his team needed to find a way to stay positive while going through tough times.
As a leader and experienced player on a team that lost a potential NBA lottery pick in Tyrese Haliburton to an injury, Nixon stepping up his play would be instrumental to changing the tide of the Cyclones’ season.
Nixon, along with his fellow upperclassmen Michael Jacobson and Solomon Young, did just that in their team’s 81-52 win over Texas on Saturday – marking the largest margin of victory over the Longhorns in series’ history
“It was good to see the three upperclassmen did some really good things,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “They combined for two-thirds of our points.”
The trio’s 55 points for the Cyclones would have outscored Texas alone.
That’s in part to a defensive effort that allowed Iowa State to hold Texas to 29.3% shooting from the field.
“I thought we did a great job of just staying in front of guys today and not bailing them out with fouls,” Prohm said. “We didn’t give up straight-line drives. We were in gaps. We walled up.”
It was the upperclassmen’s day at Hilton, and a strong contingent of 14,255 fans got to see it.
It was the backbone of a lopsided win that many did not see coming.
“We knew we had to come ready,” Jacobson said. “Obviously, at this point in the season it’s a do-or-die mentality for us. That’s been the biggest thing all year for us – just trying to find consistency. We just haven’t been able to put it together on a nightly basis.”
Jacobson finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, his first double-double of the season and his first 20-point game since the season opener.
Young earned 17 points – eight of which came in the first three minutes – and added a pair of blocks on the defensive side.
Above all else, Nixon might have played his best game in an Iowa State uniform, stepping up in a big way.
Although, Nixon thought that it could just as well have been anyone else.
“I think it’s big, but it could really be anyone else,” Nixon said. “Tonight it happened to be the upperclassmen. Monday, it might be the freshman. We just stayed together.”
The message was that Iowa State had been waiting for things to come together as smoothly as they did on Saturday afternoon.
This team knows its potential and has been right there before games have slipped away down the stretch. This time around, though, they finished the game off in the first half.
The Cyclones will now look at where they go from here.
Prohm made note to his team of the back nine games of the Big 12 schedule being an opportunity to finish the season off strong and go into Kansas City with some momentum.
The stretch is far less tasking than the first half, and the team has now started it with a 2-1 record.
“I just told them, if you look at the league. We’re 4-8. We’ve got some games that if we could (win) down the stretch, then we could get in that top six. The short-term goal for us is one game at a time, and we’ll go from there.”
Prohm wants to avoid the play-in round of the 10-team bracket at the Sprint Center.
It’s a lot easier to win a tournament if a team needs to win three games as opposed to four – and the Cyclones know that they need to, to make it to March.
It won’t get easier right away, with a game on the road at Kansas on Monday looming for the Cyclones.
“If everyone does their part, we’ll be fine going down the stretch,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s confidence has never wavered, and the Cyclones want to make the final stretch of six games important.
What we saw Saturday could play a big part.