MBB: Cowboys enter Hilton

ISU guard Scott Christopherson looks down the court to pass Feb. 6 against Kansas State. The Cyclones host Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Manfred Brugger

ISU guard Scott Christopherson looks down the court to pass Feb. 6 against Kansas State. The Cyclones host Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Chris Cuellar

Iowa State will be battling familiar foes when Oklahoma State comes to Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday night, even if the Cowboys (17–7) and Cyclones (13–12) don’t have much in common with just six games remaining in the regular season.

Working uphill against another losing streak, the Cyclones will host a Cowboys team that stars junior guard James Anderson, the Big 12’s leading scorer and ISU forward Craig Brackins’ roommate from the University Games from last summer. A major flaw in this year’s Iowa State team exposed itself the last time these two squads met, as the Cyclones allowed a 12–0 run to the Cowboys right after halftime.

“There’s progress, we’re just trying to get the results now,” Brackins said. “You just keep working practice and keep doing whatever you have to do on the court.”

ISU fans know this song and dance well, and Brackins and coach Greg McDermott don’t want to put the Cyclone faithful through it on the first game of their three-game home stand.

“We’re excited to come home. That’s the good news,” McDermott said. “The bad news is that Oklahoma State is talented, and a very difficult match-up for us.”

Iowa State has struggled with guard dominated teams all season, being unable trade buckets and play full court with limited bench and shooting options. To find victory against Oklahoma State, they’ll attempt to slow the game down and not let it become a three-point shoot out like OSU coach Travis Ford would like to see.

“They’re a four guard lineup and we don’t have enough guards, so we’re going to have to change the defense and do some things different to take them out of rhythm,” McDermott said.

Anderson has become a poster child for leadership and consistency (see ______), and the guard’s play has the full attention of the ISU coaching staff. The up-swing in his scoring output comes as a result of his free throw attempts, and Anderson has already made 20 more free throws than he did all of last season.

“I learned that [Anderson] can drive the ball from either direction,” Brackins said of his team experience in Serbia. “He’s just a complete player, at first I thought he was just a shooter, from playing in the Big 12, that’s what he did. Over there I learned a lot more about him.”

With ISU guards Marquis Gilstrap and Scott Christopherson still battling sickness, McDermott would be happy if the offense came from anywhere on Wednesday.

“That’s our challenge. Scottie obviously doesn’t have his legs — he still has to be out there 20 plus minutes a game for us,” McDermott said. “Dominique Buckley is doing some good things, Chris Colvin is doing some good things, but scoring a bunch of points may not necessarily where they’re at right now. I think we can score a lot of points to win, but we have to be pretty good defensively.”

Oklahoma State is bringing more than Anderson to Hilton Coliseum to build their case for an NCAA tournament bid, and they’ll need Obi Muonelo (12.7 ppg) and the baby-faced Keiton Page (10.3 ppg) to build on their 1–4 conference record away from the comfortable Gallagher-Iba Arena. Anderson, Muonelo and Page are all knocking down more than two three-pointers per game, and the 5-foot-9-inch sophomore Page is shooting nearly 88-percent from the free throw line.

“They’re a very good team that have got some good wins on their resume, obviously they are playing for their NCAA tournament lives here, so it’s a big game for them. It’s a huge game for us,” McDermott said.

ESPN’s “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi has Oklahoma State as one of his “Last Four In” to the NCAA tournament at this point, and with six games to go, Iowa State is six games under .500 in conference, and will need a run in the Big 12 Tournament and to close the year to have any hope at a postseason berth, NCAA, NIT, or otherwise.

“We could possibly go on a run, and hopefully we can with the home crowd in our favor,” Brackins said of the home stand to close the year.

“Who knows, we could get an upset in the tournament, it’s college basketball, you never know what’s going to happen, so right now we’re just playing for each other. That’s all you can do.”