Another slow start dooms Cyclones


Photo: Zhenru Zhang/Iowa State D

Forward Melvin Ejim goes for the lay-in during the game against Missouri on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Missouri defeated the Cyclones 76-70.

Jake Lovett

In Saturday’s 76-70 loss to No. 20 Missouri, Iowa State fell behind 4-2 at the 17:56 mark of the first half.

For the next 31 minutes, the Cyclones (14-13, 1-11 in Big 12) would have to try and battle back from behind.

Another slow start, another Big 12 loss for Fred Hoiberg’s young team.

“We just came out and dug ourselves another hole,” Hoiberg said. “We exhaust too much energy trying to get back into the game.”

After the 4-2 defecit early, the Tigers pulled away to a 12-point lead later in the half, but from there, the Cyclones slowly began to claw their way back into the game.

Twelve minutes of whittling finally resulted in just a two-point halftime deficit.

However, the second half was more of the same. The Cyclones fell behind by seven, creeped back to tie the game at 58, just the second and only time the game would be tied.

The Cyclones never led.

“They’ve got to come out and battle for 40 minutes,” Hoiberg said. “I’m proud of the way our guys battled for 33 of the 40 minutes. You’ve got to find a way to come out from the tip and play that way.

“We’re not good enough, we’re not deep enough to come out on the other end.”

Iowa State played without forward Jamie Vanderbeken — out with a sprained ankle — and played with just a seven-man rotation while the Tigers went 10 deep for much of the game.

Hoiberg applauded his team’s effort, particularly that of freshman Melvin Ejim, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. The coach said his freshman, Ejim, routinely asked for breaks on the bench after running himself to exhaustion during the course of the game.

“That’s the effort we need,” Hoiberg said. “We need guys running themselves into the ground. They’re tired, but they can rest when the season’s over.”

Iowa State is mired in a nine-game losing streak, without a win since Jan. 15. Nearly all of the nine losses have started with slow ISU starts, leaving the young, thin roster fighting back in most of its games.

“If we start off the way we always play throughout the whole 40 minutes,” said senior guard Diante Garrett, who ended the game with a double-double, 12 points and 10 assists. “I think we’d have been on the other end of all these losses.”

Hoiberg said his team’s defense in the last ten minutes of the game was as good as it’s been all season, but the comments just led him once again to reflecting on his team’s slow start.

“If you come out, start the game that way … instead of fighting back every game and trying to find a way to dig into a lead,” Hoiberg said. “That’s the dissappointing thing to me, is we show how capable we are.”

Saturday’s game marked the sixth time during that streak in which the defecit was less than 10 points, and the second loss to Missouri.

Tuesday, the Cyclones play No. 2 — although with a loss Saturday, its ranking could change — Texas before coming home to play Nebraska on Saturday.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting, got to play with the cards that we’re dealt,” said guard Jake Anderson.