Iowa State head men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm hangs his head after arguing with a game official in the second half against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2021.
AMES — Eleven months ago, back before pandemics, protocols or protests and the world seemed so much simpler, Texas Tech handed Iowa State its most lopsided loss ever at Hilton Coliseum.
President Donald Trump still had a Twitter account when the Red Raiders rolled into Ames and beat the Cyclones by 30 points last February.
Chris Beard’s team nearly did it again on Saturday but came up three points short in a 91-64 win that dropped Iowa State to 2-7 overall and 0-5 in Big 12 play. This game will simply have to stand as Iowa State’s second-most lopsided loss ever at Hilton Coliseum.
Much has changed in the 11 months between these two basketball games. One thing hasn’t though — that’s is the significant gap between the Texas Tech men’s basketball team and the Iowa State.
“Not really much to say outside of they just came in here and kicked our tails,” head coach Steve Prohm said. “Outside of the first four minutes, we weren’t very good all night for a lot of reasons. Really disappointed and embarrassed.”
Iowa State entered this game appearing close to turning a corner. They’d been close in recent losses to No. 8 West Virginia, No. 2 Baylor and No. 4 Texas.
There were certainly still a number of areas to clean up, but there looked to be a path forward toward being a regularly competitive team—maybe not winning regularly, but at least being competitive in one of the nation’s toughest leagues with more than a handful of teams sitting in or near the top-25 each week.
Being competitive regularly would at least give optimism for the future with a young roster. Being competitive regularly gives the opportunity to jump up and bite one of the league’s top teams on occasion and to leave behind some good memories in an incredibly tough season.
This game was competitive… until the first media timeout. From there, it was all Red Raiders — and all that progress the Cyclones showed over the last two or three weeks seemed to disappear.
“We came out thinking we could get one today,” senior center Solomon Young, who tied for the team-high with 15 points, said. “Obviously, we fell short. What’s done is done. Now, we’ve got to take this and move forward and try not to have this happen again.”
There are plenty of basketball points that could be broken down in this space, but the game really comes down to a few numbers.
Texas Tech averaged nearly 1.7 points per possession in the first half while building a 24-point lead. The Red Raiders scored on 75 percent of their possessions while shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Even when Beard’s team missed, they were often able to get the rebound and put it back in.
Texas Tech was the more talented team. Texas Tech was the more physical team. Texas Tech was the tougher team.
Period. Full stop. The end.
“We’ve gotta be tougher,” Prohm said. “Forty minutes, gotta compete. Compete the right way. Represent your name, represent the university, represent everybody the right way. We’ve competed better, but we have to compete every second, every minute for all 40 minutes to put ourselves in a position. We didn’t do that at all outside of a couple minutes today.”
The program’s three worst ever conference losses at Hilton Coliseum have now all come within the last 12 months. This game, the aforementioned game last February with the Red Raiders and a 26-point defeat at the hands of Kansas one year ago this past Friday.
Hilton Magic has never felt further away.
The Cyclones are 0-5 in league play for the first time since 2005. Iowa State is now 18-41 in Big 12 play since the start of the 2017-18 season. They’re 14-16 in league games at home during that span.
This place that once felt like an impenetrable fortress, a building where the Cyclones won 22 and 21 consecutive games at different points during the last decade, has suddenly become a place where Iowa State loses more often to conference opponents than it wins.
And not only do they lose, they lose badly.
“Not where we need to be,” Prohm said. “Not where we need to be. Not what this program expects, what this program deserves. We’ve won multiple championships. This program expects that. It expects to play in the postseason, expects to win big games, expects to do things the right way… It’s gotta mean something to you.”
As you start to consider some of these numbers I’ve laid out above, it becomes glaringly clear the noise around Prohm’s job status and future at Iowa State will be growing louder and louder from some factions of the fanbase in the coming days and months. Nothing is going to get easier in the Big 12 as things move forward — and if playing close is the best possible scenario, then the natives are going to grow even more restless.
The unfortunate reality for Prohm and this team — regardless of the roster’s youth — is that just getting close to wins is not up to the standard for Iowa State basketball. Getting blown out on your home floor at a historic level three times in one year is not up to the standard.
The standard is trips to the NCAA Tournament — and winning in those tournaments.
The standard is having one of the most terrifying home atmospheres and a place where opposing teams can expect to have more or less no chance to leaving with a victory.
“Just competing to be close, that’s not what this thing is about,” Prohm said. “You’re going to have growth in stages, but there’s high standards. This program’s done a lot in recent times, the last 10 years, but over time it’s done a ton. We’ve got a lot of people out there doing a lot of really good things that played here. We have to understand that. Playing close as this team grows was good, but that’s not good enough. We’ve got to understand that. Nothing is going to get easy in this league. That’s what you sign up for. That’s what makes this league so great. You want to play against the best. Today surprised me. I didn’t see this coming at all.”
The standard at Iowa State is not much different from the standard Beard and his program have set forward in Lubbock. Win big games, go to NCAA tournaments, compete for championships.
The difference is the Red Raiders appear to be living up to their standard and have built a sizable gap between themselves and the Cyclones.
Not even 2020 could change that.