It’s unclear what will be thinner Tuesday night in Boulder, Colo., the high mountain air or Iowa State’s bench.
With forward Calvin Godfrey suspended Monday, the Cyclones (14-8, 1-6) are left with just six players that average more than five minutes per game. However, Colorado (14-8, 3-4) is struggling as well, with both teams riding four-game losing streaks.
“We’re not playing complete basketball games right now,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “You can’t continue digging these holes, we’ve had double digit deficits in all but one league game. It’s tough, especially when you’re as thin as we are.”
It will be the final Big 12 meeting between the two divisional rivals in Boulder with the Buffaloes moving to the Pac-10 Conference next season, but the Cyclones and their experienced coaching staff won’t miss playing in the mountain town.
“I could do it all day, I don’t really get tired,” said senior guard Diante Garrett with a smile. “Even coach Fred said something about it when he went over there to play against the Denver Nuggets, he said it’s a different kind of air. He’s been telling all the freshmen that, that they’ll have to get used to it.”
While Godfrey’s suspension will leave Iowa State even more short-handed than usual, his impact on the stat line reflects Iowa State’s necessity for big nights out of its starters.
Iowa State’s starting five of Garrett, Melvin Ejim, Jake Anderson, Scott Christopherson and Jamie Vanderbeken log 80.6 percent of the team’s total minutes and nearly 87 percent of the team’s points per game.
“We’ve just got to come out and be the aggressor right away,” Garrett said. “The last few games the other teams have just jumped on us right away and we’re battling and fight back, but it’s kind of hard to do that in the Big 12.”
The Buffaloes and the Cyclones are both under first-year coaches, with Colorado trotting out Tad Boyle and the philosophy change should impact the game itself.
Under former coach Jeff Bzdelik, Colorado ran the back-cut oriented Princeton offense and ground out series with the opposition to the tune of 74.6 points per game. With Greg McDermott at the helm for Iowa State, the Cyclones scored 72.6 points per contest. With current coaches Boyle and Hoiberg, Colorado puts up 81 points per game, good for 14th in the country and ISU is scoring 76.3 points per game, good for 42nd.
“They’re playing an exciting brand of basketball, they’re playing up-tempo,” Hoiberg said. “[Boyle] has done a wonderful job.”
Colorado touts two star guards in senior Cory Higgins and sophomore Alec Burks that make their back-court dangerous in transition. Higgins was the team’s leading score prior to Burks’ arrival, but now the senior puts up 16.2 points per game, just under Burks’ 19.8 point average.
“I think they’re the best back-court duo in the league and also the country, I think both those kids are pros,” Hoiberg said. “Those guys create a tremendous mismatch and match-up problem for us so we’re going to have to go out there and compete and probably junk it up during the game and force them to take contested shots. Hope they have an off night.”
Iowa State has lost five straight games in Boulder and Garrett averages just 6.1 points and 3.3 assists in six career meetings with Colorado. The Cyclones are just 8-23 all-time in the Coors Events Center.
“The big thing I remember from playing in Boulder and then in Denver in the NBA is that it is hard, when you can go out there and blow out your lungs and get a good burn going, it makes it a little bit easier that next day,” Hoiberg said.
Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday.