MEN’S BASKETBALL: Offense takes off as shots begin to fall for Iowa State

Iowa States forward Craig Brackins dunks while playing against Baylor on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, at the Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Iowa State’s forward Craig Brackins dunks while playing against Baylor on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, at the Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Corey Aldritt

The 29 field goals completed by the Cyclones on Saturday in their game against Texas A&M were the most made by Iowa State all season in conference play, and its 49 percent shooting was also a Big 12 season high.

The 69 points scored Saturday were just five points above average, but it’s the efficiency that has the ISU coaching staff pleased.

“We’ve played better — without question. Since the K-State game, where I thought we had decent shots — we just weren’t able to finish them. We’ve been a little bit more efficient with our offense, both against Baylor and against A&M,” coach Greg McDermott said.

The men’s offense hit rock bottom three games ago, when it scored a Hilton Coliseum low of 46 points in the team’s loss to Kansas State. In that game, Iowa State shot a season low of 30 percent from the floor and missed 15-of-17 3-point attempts.

Iowa State has bounced back from that poor shooting effort, with a 71-point effort against Baylor and 69 points on the road, against Texas A&M.

The Cyclones have also started to get comfortable from the 3-point line again. The team shot 40 percent from beyond the arc in their last two contests, after shooting just 12 percent in the K-State game.

Eikmeier gets back on floor — Freshmen guard Wes Eikmeier averaged 9.3 points per game in his first four games at Iowa State, but after making a name for himself he saw his minutes and production fall drastically due to illness and injury.

“It’s been a tough year for him, in that regard. He’s been ill a couple of times, where he’s missed consecutive days — or more — of practice. He’s had three or four injuries that have cost him the same amount of practice time,” McDermott said.

Before making a 3-point basket in the first half against Baylor, Eikmeier had not scored in a Big 12 game and had played just 32 minutes in 12 conference games. He only took five shots in those 32 minutes during his recovery from illness and a rash of injuries.

“When you’re trying to find your way and trying to find a role in the rotation somewhere, then you can’t afford to have that happen,” McDermott said.

Eikmeier is still seeing limited action, but he’s almost fully recovered, and he made a 3-pointer in the last two games, averaging 6.5 minutes in those contests.

Schedule gets tougher next season — One important ingredient to an NCAA Tournament berth is the makeup of a team’s non-conference schedule.

The Cyclones’ 2008-09 non-conference schedule was dominated by schools from small conferences, but things should get tougher for the Cyclones next season.

“That was done on purpose — it was done this year intentionally, because we had a feeling that we were going to be really young.

“Next year, we felt like when we put the schedule together that we’d have some guys back and would be ready to make a run in the non-conference season.”

The Cyclones have home games with Iowa, Houston and the Missouri Valley Conference co-champion, Northern Iowa.Former Cyclone guard, Dodie Dunson, will also return to Hilton Coliseum when his new team, the Bradley Braves, makes a visit.

Iowa State will travel on the road to play Drake and head west to a Pac 10 school for the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Challenge.

The Pac 10 team has not been officially announced.

The Cyclones will also play in a tournament in Chicago, with teams such as Notre Dame, Northwestern and St. Louis in the field.

“We’ll have all we can handle. I think that will be good for our team, and I think our team will be ready for that,” McDermott said.