No. 20 Cyclones hope to brave the cold and tie the Big 12 lead

Sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton drives to the hoop during the Iowa State vs Kansas basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse Jan. 21. The Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 80-76.

Noah Rohlfing

Wednesday’s game between the No. 20 Iowa State Cyclones and West Virginia will be played in Hilton Coliseum at 6 p.m., where the temperature is generally 72 degrees, as in most arenas. 

Outside? As anyone who has seen the news knows, there will be historic wind chills reaching 45 degrees below zero. It’s such a concern that the Cyclones have decided to let arriving fans park closer to the arena.

The only thing as cold as the weather might be West Virginia’s basketball team. The Mountaineers are 1-6 in Big 12 play, with their only win so far being at home against the Kansas Jayhawks. This is a rebuilding year for coach Bob Huggins’ squad, as they are likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013-14.

The Mountaineers lost star center Sagaba Konate at the beginning of the season, and lost players such as Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles to the NBA. 

As a result, the Mountaineers’ usually-prolific defense has suffered. West Virginia’s defense allows 74.4 points per game, last in the Big 12 by four points. The Mountaineers also rank last in field goal percentage defense, letting opponents shoot 43.5 percent per contest. 

On the offensive end, it’s not much better. West Virginia is last in the Big 12 in shooting percentage at 42.1 percent per game, and last in point differential (-0.3 points per game). 

To make things worse, the Mountaineers shoot 32.2 percent on 3-pointers, making their offense pretty one-dimensional and relying on paint touches to get the majority of their points.

All told, it sets up for the Cyclones, first in the Big 12 in scoring, to have an offensive field day. 

But freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker said the Cyclones aren’t getting ahead of themselves. 

“We’re a close-knit group,” Horton-Tucker said of the team’s attitude. 

Coming off of a 87-73 win over then-No. 20 Ole Miss on the road, the Cyclones are poised to potentially take a step toward the Big 12 lead following Kansas’ loss to Texas on Tuesday with a win against the Mountaineers.

The questions have continued in regards to Iowa State’s starting lineup, picking up after Lindell Wigginton and Cam Lard had strong games against the Rebels. Wigginton and Lard have been up and down recently, but their status as starters and key contributors last season still looms large.

On Monday, however, coach Steve Prohm didn’t seem to be too worried about who took the floor first Wednesday night.

“Whatever I think is best for our team to max out,” Prohm said. “We’ve got seven guys that are legit starters.”

Down year or not, West Virginia isn’t a team that does down easy. Conversely, If Iowa State wants to have a real chance to win the Big 12, these are the games it has to win.

Freshman Tyrese Haliburton said this was a big week for the Cyclones.

“You gotta take care of home court; that’s big in conference play,” Haliburton said. “We love Hilton, love our crowd, and that’ll be big time for us.”