Iowa State has no time to relax as it takes on BYU


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Naz Long drives the ball down the court during the exhibition game against Augustana on Sunday, Nov. 3, at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones won 90-68.

Alex Halsted

Every single day in practice, the quick outlet pass moves to the edge of the court at the Sukup Basketball Complex in West Ames, and Iowa State runs the floor.

Every single day.

When the No. 21 Cyclones (3-0) travel to Provo, Utah on Nov. 20 for their first road test against BYU (4-0), they might get their best chance to put that practice into motion. The Cougars have averaged 96.3 points per game through four games.

“I think it’s going to be very exciting, seeing the way they push the ball,” said sophomore guard Naz Long. “Coach Hoiberg always emphasizes just getting the ball and going. We have an offensive scheme, we have an offensive system that we follow under coach Hoiberg, but he says his primary look is get the ball and go.”

First, Iowa State will be tasked with finding a way to slow down BYU, a team that likes to run just as much as the Cyclones.

“The big thing is really getting prepared and really working on getting back in transition,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “I think they had 28 in transition against Stanford and scored 113 on the road. (They’re) a team averaging 97 points, so if we don’t get back in transition, it’s not going to be a very fun game.”

In that way, the first road game for the newly ranked Cyclones, whose No. 21 ranking is the highest since the 2000-01 season, will be a learning experience. The team’s other learning experience lingers in the air.

Playing 4,553 feet above sea level will require a quick transition for players into the higher-altitude and thinner air.

Hoiberg said the team planned to run in Provo on Nov. 19 to become as acclimated with the altitude as possible. Hoiberg played in Boulder, Colo. — 5,430 feet above sea level — during his time at Iowa State and in Denver while in the NBA.

ISU senior forward Melvin Ejim brings the team’s other high-altitude experience, playing in Boulder when Colorado was still in the Big 12 his freshman season.

“It’s definitely no joke, you’ve got to get used to that and be prepared for that mentally,” Ejim said. “You definitely get winded quick, but you’ve got to get your second wind back and be able to play right away.”

Ejim will play in his second game this season after returning Nov. 17 from a hyperextended left knee. Hoiberg expects BYU to have guard Tyler Haws back, too.

Haws, who averaged 21.7 points per game last season, had missed the Cougars’ last two games with an abdominal strain.

“If he starts going, they’re a different team,” Ejim said. “Hopefully we can find somebody that steps up and takes that defensive side.”

In two games this season Haws has averaged 29.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. How do the Cyclones slow him down?

“Can I get Chris Babb back? He did as good a job as anybody in the country I think last year,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a heck of a player. He scores from all over: shooting the 3, post-up, mid-range. You just have to have that great awareness, try to make him make tough shots.”

Babb slowed Haws to his second-lowest scoring game last season when he held him to nine points on 4-of-13 shooting in an 83-62 win at Hilton Coliseum.

Figuring out the answers to those questions is what has Iowa State far from relaxed after its victory against No. 7 Michigan on Sunday.

“We watched them play on TV, and they’re a very talented team,” Long said of BYU. “There are no days off, and just as we think we can relax, we can’t, because we’re about to go on the road and take on a very talented BYU team.”