ISU men ready for the final stretch


Photo: Grace Steenhagen/Iowa State Daily

ISU guard Chris Allen runs past an Oklahoma State player. Iowa State faced Oklahoma State for the second time at Hilton on Jan. 18, winning with a last minute 3-pointer by Scott Christopherson. The final score was 71-68.

Jeremiah Davis

Fred Hoiberg knows there are no

guarantees in the Big 12.

Night in and night out, the

second-year coach said, any team can win in a conference with three

of the top-ten-ranked teams in the nation.

“There’s no off-nights in this

league,” Hoiberg said. “You’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to

put in the right game plan, then you’ve got to go out and execute


Hoiberg’s players are well aware of

the challenges they face in conference play.

Guard Chris Allen compared the level

of difficulty, and how that translates to winning streaks — which

are something that gains teams attention, a ranking and notoriety

for the NCAA Tournament.

“There’s a difference when you’ve

got to play against Kansas one week, and then go play against Texas

Tech and then Baylor and then Missouri,” Allen said. “It’s kind of

a roller coaster.”

Forward Melvin Ejim said the

constant pressure of facing Big 12 opponents is a good thing for

the team. He said it lets the team know they can play with any team

in the country and helps with their discipline.

Getting a few wins in a row —

especially wins like the ones the Cyclones got against Kansas —

might give the team a false sense of where they stand, Ejim said,

so keeping focused is paramount.

“We’ve just got to bring it every

time we play, no matter who we’re playing,” Ejim said. “We

definitely know that we need to get this one. I think guys are

going to be more focused and more determined to get this win. Once

you go on a little streak, you get kind of complacent, but now

that’s kind of a wake-up call that we’re not done yet, we’re not

done playing, we’ve got to keep going.”

At the start of the year, when

prognosticators were ranking teams in the Big 12, Texas A&M was

picked by some to win the conference. Through the first 11 games of

their conference schedule, the Aggies are 3-8, with one of those

losses being the 74-50 loss to the Cyclones in College Station,

Texas, on Jan. 7.

It was in that game that forward

Royce White recorded just the sixth triple-double in Big 12

history, finishing with 10 points, 18 rebounds and 10


Hoiberg said he does not know how

Texas A&M will defend the sophomore, and said his play in that

game was the reason Iowa State was able to win


“The biggest thing we did in that

game is we did such a great job on the boards, which allowed us to

get out in transition,” Hoiberg said. “Royce did a really good job

of getting the ball in transition. He had nine rebounds in nine

minutes that game, all on the defensive end. That allowed him to

bring it down and use his creativity.”

While White was the hero against the

Aggies, Allen has been the go-to scorer in the last few games, his

biggest being the 22 points against Oklahoma State.

Hoiberg praised Allen’s effort

recently, and Allen admitted to being at the Sukup Basketball

Complex three or four times a day. The end of his college career is

rapidly approaching, and Allen said because of that, he’s putting

in the extra work.

“It’s been hitting me,” Allen said.

“Now it’s like, ‘We’ve got seven games left in the conference?’

That’s even more stressful, but at the same time I’m not worried

about it because I’m working.”

Those last seven games, Allen said,

are make-or-break games for the Cyclones, who hope to return to the

NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.

Wanting to make the tournament,

though, is not reason for Allen to want to rush the last seven

conference games.

“Definitely not,” Allen said when

asked if he is in a hurry for the regular season to end. “Where our

team is now, we need these last seven games. Especially if we

expect to make a run in the tournament. They’re kind of like

tournament games for us, because if we lose, it could be our


The Cyclones tip off against the

Aggies at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.