Cyclones ready to welcome the Bears


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Guard Diante Garrett drives the ball toward the basket during the game against Northern Arizona on Friday, Nov. 12 in Hilton Coliseum. Garrett scored a total of 19 points throughout the game.

Chris Cuellar

Coming off its first loss of the season, Iowa State will attempt to rebound against California in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclones (6-1) were slowed down by rival Northern Iowa on Wednesday, and the Bears (4-2) present similar issues with their defense, as they haven’t allowed 70 points or more all season.

“I am very excited to see us bounce back,” said senior guard Jake Anderson, with a big smile on his face. “Those types of games happen in the game of basketball, but you judge a person or a team by how they bounce back from adversity, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Fans and players alike are interested to see which ISU team can come out against a Cal team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Against Northern Iowa, the Cyclones struggled mightily against the slow pace, shooting just 33 percent and getting out-rebounded by 11.

The backcourt players that got Cal to 24 wins — including a 19-point victory over Iowa State in Berkeley, Calif., last season — are gone, but it has three players averaging double-digits in scoring to pick up the slack.

“I just remember last year they had Jerome Randle, one of the fastest point guards in the nation,” said senior guard Diante Garrett. “Guarding him was kind of hard, but we’re just trying to get back and get some revenge.”

Returning Cyclones Garrett and Scott Christopherson combined for just 13 points in 48 minutes in the first installment of this game and are definitely looking for a turnaround against the Bears. Coming off a 7-of-23 shooting performance against Northern Iowa, Garrett just wants to get back on the right track.

“Our stroke is there, we just didn’t make shots last night, so we have to keep our head up like coach Fred [Hoiberg] said,” Garrett said. “We need to make sure we’ve got our confidence to the roof.”

The entire team wants to forget about the UNI game as quickly as they can, and see how they perform following a loss with another disciplined opponent.

Under coach Greg McDermott and with a different roster, the Cyclones lost back-to-back games to Northern Iowa and Cal, but following the trip to the West Coast, reeled off four straight wins. Similar results would be appreciated.

The Cyclones didn’t feel pressure being undefeated through six games but now want to get past the first loss as soon as possible.

“Maybe this loss was a good thing, maybe it’s something that we needed to get off our high horse, bring us back down to reality and let us focus more on this thing,” Anderson said.

Iowa State will see their first “Big Six” — schools that are in BCS automatic-qualifying conferences in football — conference opponent of the season in Cal, but the squad doesn’t view it much differently than the team they took on in Cedar Falls.

“It’s a lot different, because I think there’s a lot more confidence coming in,” Anderson said. “You really believe that you can come out with a victory. Probably in the mid-majors, some guys are just happy to be there. These guys aren’t just happy to be here, we’re trying to prove something and we’re trying to win.”

Getting beat on the glass against Northern Iowa was an eye-opener for the Cyclones, who had gotten past their first few opponents without exposing their flaws in the blocks. The thin bench and lack of size on the roster were put on display against the Panthers, and while Cal doesn’t have 7-foot-3-inch Chinese center Max Zhao, they still have bulk in the post.

Staying out of foul trouble are key for Vanderbeken and freshmen Calvin Godfrey and Jordan Railey, as their presence is necessary.

The Bears will pack in a traditionally physical lineup, but the Cyclones just want to create their own success.

“I think we’ll bounce back, and I feel sorry for Cal, because there are a lot of mixed emotions from the loss, and we’re hungry now,” said freshman forward Melvin Ejim.

Despite all the Xs and Os, Iowa State just needs more shots to fall at the right times than went down Wednesday in the McLeod Center. Iowa State’s defense performed admirably against the Panthers, holding UNI to 32.7 percent and just seven made field goals in the second half, but the offense still fell short.

The roll of the ball at Hilton Coliseum isn’t scientifically much different than in Cedar Falls, but having a home crowd and the confidence to let it fly are vital for the up-tempo offense to take off.

“We were playing our game, and we just lost,” Ejim said. “It’s part of the game, and it hurts a little bit, but we’re going to move on and get better as a team.”

Cyclone Alley members will receive replica ISU basketball jerseys with Hoiberg’s number, 32, to wear before the game, and according to Cyclone Alley’s website, will go to the first 2,500 students with season tickets. Doors open at noon for the 1 p.m. tip-off Saturday.