Cyclone basketball prepares for rival games against Drake


Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Diante Garrett drives the ball in the game against Northern Arizona on Nov. 12 at Hilton Coliseum.

Chris Cuellar

Iowa State got past its first two opponents with ease Friday and Sunday, getting first-year and first-time coach Fred Hoiberg off to a 2-0 start.

The competition will definitely heat up Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum, as the Cyclones host nearby Drake University, which is 2-0 in its last two visits to Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclones haven’t lost three straight at Hilton to the Bulldogs since 1939, and in the 170th meeting of the two teams, the Cyclones hope to be the team that stretches the win streak to three games.

“It’s always a special game when you play the in-state opponents, but we’re going to treat it like another game,” Hoiberg said. “There should be a little bit better energy, and I’m hoping we get a better turnout on Wednesday night. If we play like we have the last two games, all year long, where we go out and play hard with energy and concentrate on defense and play unselfish basketball, we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Just two games into the season, Iowa State is already getting up the floor and playing at the pace Hoiberg talked about all offseason. All five starters are averaging 10 or more points, and the Cyclones have hit double-digits in fast break points in both games, as well.

“It was a great first weekend for our basketball team, and I thought we really came out both those games with tremendous energy and dictated the tempo,” Hoiberg said. “We really wanted to get up and down the floor, and our guys really bought into that.”

The fast break is good place to be for a team filled with newcomers and smaller guards, as the running and pace gets pushed by those quicker players. Senior guard Diante Garrett is averaging 16 points and six assists and has been waiting to play in a style like this.

Iowa State and Drake players participate in the competitive Capital City League over the summer in Des Moines, so players are familiar with each other and their abilities. Organized university play obviously takes precedent over street-ball style, but the freedom of Iowa State’s offense lets Garrett run free like in the summer.

“We’ve been working on the fast break since the summer, getting up the court and getting used to it, and it’s paying off for us,” Garrett said. “That’s one of the main skills I can do is break defenders down and get to the basket and create for my teammates. It’s been working out.”

A certain former guard for the Cyclones likes the way his players are executing, and thinks the ceiling is even higher with his small lineup to have success.

“Our spacing is right probably 75 percent of the time,” Hoiberg said. “When we are in the right spots and when we do space it and penetrate, we usually get a pretty good look. Whether the ball goes in, that’s not the biggest thing for me, I just want guys in the right spot. We still have some things we need to work on.”

The Cyclones have knocked down 3-pointers at a 47 percent pace, even as their opponents have struggled to manage just 17 percent from behind the arc. Players don’t expect Drake to shoot that low of a percentage and will have to be prepared for a step up in their opponents’ ability. Drake senior guard Ryan Wedel knocked down six 3-pointers in the season opener.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what they’ve got,” said senior forward Jamie Vanderbeken. “They’ve got some good shooters. Hopefully we can keep shooting like we have been, but it’s more than likely going to go cold at some point. We’re just going to have to find other ways to score.”

Drake beat Texas Southern 60-46 on Saturday at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, but the Bulldogs are stopping in Ames for their first road game on a three-week stint on the road.

The rivalry with the Bulldogs stretches all the way back to 1908, and the Cyclones lead 105-64 all-time.

“I think Drake is a program on the rise, and they’ve got a very good group of young players mixed in with some veteran guys that can shoot it,” Hoiberg said. “We’re probably both a work in progress at this point.”

Wednesday’s game tips off at 7 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.