Defensive woes return as Cyclones fall to Northern Iowa


Coach Fred Hoiberg reacts to the team’s performance during Wednesday night’s game against UNI. The Cyclones fell to the Panthers 62-69. 

Jeremiah Davis

Coming off a two-game road trip, the ISU men’s basketball team seemed to have solved its defensive issues.

But when the dust settled following the 69-62 loss to Northern Iowa on Wednesday night, the mistakes and miscues on the defensive end were once again staring the Cyclones in the face.

“We stopped communicating out there,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “When things got tough for us, we just stopped talking. We’re pretty good when things are going well, you saw that in the first half. Then they make a run on us, and we make a big defensive mistake. … We put our heads down. You’ve got to stay solid, you’ve got to stay even in this game of basketball.”

From the opening tip, it appeared as though the Cyclones (5-2) were still on their defensive roll from the trip to South Padre Island. Iowa State forced Northern Iowa (6-1) to begin the game 1-11 from the field shooting.

UNI coach Ben Jacobson made changes after a quick timeout when his team trailed 14-4. He talked about the adjustments that were made after the Panthers’ slow start.

“We were able to switch gears a little bit and get the ball inside,” Jacobson said. “We were able to get some touches in the paint. Prior to that time it was all jump shots, and that changed the game from our standpoint.”

The Panthers finished the half 12-17 from the field, which carried over to the second half. For the game, Northern Iowa shot 48 percent from the floor, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range. They were able to work in a multi-screen, quick ball rotation offense that gave the Cyclones fits.

“We’ve added some things, we’ve worked at some different things offensively and player movement and ball movement are two of those things,” Jacobson said. “I thought Iowa State did a very good job to start the game defensively. We were able to switch gears after half.”

In his post game news conference, Hoiberg hammered home the message that his team failed to communicate effectively. That message was echoed by his players.

Both guard Chris Allen and forward Royce White said after the game that communication led to a breakdown in team defense.

Allen put the breakdown and the loss in simple terms: “If we played defense and communicate more and rebound, we win the game, easily. … We’ve got to build off this and start back at the drawing board [on Thursday] at practice.”

White agreed with his teammate and added that the Cyclones were simply outplayed. He said making an effort to be effective in tight situations will lead to good things for the team.

“I think we just got outplayed [tonight],” White said. “We’ve got to play harder. We’ve got to find a way to get stops down the stretch and string together stops.”

Hoiberg said he thought his team “played like frontrunners” in that they were celebrating with one another when things were going well but hung their heads and failed to respond when things got tough.

It was the same attitude that he said showed up against Drake in Iowa State’s first loss of the season. Playing hard in tough situations is something Hoiberg stressed his team needs to do.

“Good basketball teams don’t [hang their heads],” Hoiberg said. “Good basketball teams play the same way whether it’s going great or whether it’s going poor on the basketball floor.”