Cyclones set to face Northern Iowa at home


Photo: Jake Lovett/Iowa State Daily

ISU guard Chris Allen defends his man during the Cyclones’ game against Northern Colorado on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at Hilton Coliseum. Allen led all scorers with 23 points. Iowa State forced 11 Northern Colorado turnovers in its 90-82 win over the Bears.

Jeremiah Davis

In the first of its three in-state rivalry games this season, the ISU men’s basketball team paid the price for a self-described lack of preparation.

With Northern Iowa coming to town Wednesday, coach Fred Hoiberg was singing his usual chorus of his team needing to come out mentally prepared, especially with the foe it is set to face.

“This is one of the best-coached teams in the country,” Hoiberg said of Northern Iowa. “Ben [Jacobson] does such a good job with these guys as far as preparing them, getting them ready. They don’t make mistakes, they don’t beat themselves.”

The calling card for Jacobson-led teams is defense. Through six games this season, the Panthers (5-1) are allowing 55.5 points per game — putting them at No. 20 in the nation in scoring defense.

One of the things both Hoiberg and his players have said about Northern Iowa is that the team likes to control tempo and often times force opponents to play throughout the entirety of the shot clock.

“They just do what they do really, really well,” said guard Scott Christopherson. “They’re not overwhelming, but they make you play so disciplined.

“They do a good job of making you take contested shots. They’re solid. They’re good with their help defense, they’re good with their rotations, they cover for each other well. They’re just a really mature team.”

Coaches from both Northern Iowa and Iowa State got a good look at each other over the teams’ last two games. Both squads were in South Padre Island, Texas, last week and faced the same opponents at the tournament there, beating both Providence and Rice.

Hoiberg said he got a chance to watch Northern Iowa, but both Christopherson and guard Chris Allen said it was mainly coaches who were scouting.

Allen — who faced Northern Iowa while at Michigan State in the Sweet 16 game following the Panthers’ upset of Kansas in the 2010 NCAA tournament — said he still doesn’t know a lot about the scrappy team from Cedar Falls, but does know a win won’t come easily.

“I haven’t really watched a lot of their games, but just from playing them when I was at Michigan State, they’re a tough team,” Allen said. “They’re not going to give up, no matter how much they’re losing; they’re gonna keep coming at you hard.”

In the Cyclones’ loss last season to Northern Iowa, as well as their loss this season to Drake, Hoiberg said shot selection and tempo were things that played to their downfall.

Much of that, he said, has to do with the Panthers’ defensive ability. He said working within the Cyclone offense is going to be the goal.

“We’re certainly going to come out and try to get good shots early,” Hoiberg said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to come out and jack up the first shot that we get. It takes patience. If it takes 25 to 30 seconds, we’ll do that.”

Armed with more and more experience playing together — and one poor outing in particular — Allen said the team is starting to come together and communicate better.

They also are looking forward to the vibe that comes from playing an in-state rival at home this time instead of on the road.

“I’m excited,” Allen said. “It’s going to be the first time to really see what Hilton Magic is all about for me on the court.”

Tipoff for Iowa State and Northern Iowa is set for 7 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.