Cyclones adjust for No. 21 Texas A&M


Photo: Mike Gunnoe/Kansan

Melvin Ejim puts up an off balance shot over Markieff Morris on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Jake Lovett

As if a 23-point loss at Kansas and losing their starting center weren’t enough.

Now, the Cyclones are stuck in the middle of a four-game stretch against ranked opponents that continues Wednesday night in College Station,Texas.

Iowa State (14-11, 1-9) will take a seven-game losing streak to Reed Arena to take on No. 21 Texas A&M (19-5, 6-4).

“They’re very sound, very solid,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “They don’t make mistakes. They don’t beat themselves.”

The Aggies come as just another test for the Cyclones, who have dropped their last seven conference games and haven’t won since Jan. 15.

Throughout that stretch, Iowa State has lost three games in which it had a lead with less than one minute to play, and three games by 23 points or more.

“People can sit around and feel sorry for themselves if they want,” ISU guard Scott Christopherson said. “Guys come to practice with a good attitude. Personally, I’m asking what can I do to help this team get off this losing streak, because it’s not fun.”

The team’s confidence has been downplayed by players and coaches alike, but confidence alone won’t help boost the ISU offense going against an Aggie defense rated No. 3 in the Big 12, only allowing 60.7 points per game.

“Guys have been down because we’ve been losing so much,” freshman forward Melvin Ejim said, “but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. Coach does a good job of keeping our spirits up.”

Hoiberg’s team will get a boost Wednesday with the return of freshman Calvin Godfrey from a three-game suspension; but will take another hit with the loss of big man Jamie Vanderbeken, who suffered a sprained ankle in Saturday’s loss to Kansas.

The loss of Vanderbeken leaves the shorthanded Cyclones even thinner on the front lines, a potential weakness against the Big 12’s fourth-leading rebounders.

“If you hang your heads now, start feeling sorry for yourselves, things are going to get worse,” Hoiberg said. “If you think things can’t get worse, you’re wrong.”

After the matchup with Texas A&M, Iowa State returns home to face No. 20 Missouri before heading to Austin, Texas to face No. 2 Texas, although the Longhorns will likely be No. 1 after Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Monday night.

All is not lost for the young Cyclones, though. Last season, their final victory came on the road against No. 5 Kansas State after dropping eight of their previous nine matchups.

“If you don’t go out there and continue to try to execute the game plan, continue to play physical and try to do the right things, it’s going to be an ugly finish to the season,” Hoiberg said.