Takeaways: Underlying numbers diminish a solid stretch for the Cyclones

Iowa State junior guard Rasir Bolton plays against Jackson State on Dec 20 in Hilton Coliseum during a 60-45 win.

Zane Douglas

A bad loss to Kansas State set Iowa State up poorly for a date with No. 8 West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia, but the Cyclones made it close with the Mountaineers, only losing 70-65.

After the loss, Iowa State hosted Jackson State, a winless team out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and won in a low scoring affair 60-45.

The Cyclones defense stepped up in both these games, but Iowa State didn’t play its best games in either.

Taking care of the ball

Something that has troubled Iowa State in the first few games of the year has been its ball control.

With many of the team’s ball-handlers new to the role of point guard, the Cyclones haven’t been the best team at taking care of the ball.

This was clear against West Virginia and Jackson State where the team turned the ball over 21 times and 19 times respectively.

Against the Mountaineers, guard Rasir Bolton was the biggest reason why the Cyclones were able to stay in the game. The junior played 40 minutes, didn’t turn the ball over once, went 9-17 shooting with 25 points and tacked on four rebounds and assists.

The rest of the team had trouble keeping the ball away from West Virginia defenders.

Javan Johnson led the team with five turnovers and hasn’t settled into his role as a primary ball-handler yet, while Dudley Blackwell, Tyler Harris and Jalen Coleman-Lands all had at least three turnovers with Blackwell having four.

Freshman earn some time

The freshman minutes coming from Iowa State’s team have been sporadic and the last two games were no different.

The change was in the amount of playing time that bounced around from freshman to freshman.

Against West Virginia, Blackwell was the main benefactor of an increase in minutes as he saw 16 minutes on the floor, playing the sixth most minutes of any Iowa State player.

The next game featured someone who didn’t even enter the game against the Mountaineers.

Freshman guard Jaden Walker has been the least used freshman so far for Head Coach Steve Prohm’s group, but he saw more than half the game against Jackson State.

The presence of a more traditional point guard barely helped the turnovers, but Walker himself stayed away from mistakes, going 1-2 with two points and only turning the ball over once while grabbing three boards and dishing out a pair of assists.

Assist totals stay low

The Cyclones are not an assist-heavy team and that stayed true over the weekend.

Bolton’s nine assists combined in the two games accounted for 47.4 percent of all Iowa State dimes against West Virginia and Jackson State.

To make matters worse, taking away Bolton’s impact as a distributor (5.5 assists per game), Iowa State would only average seven assists per game as a team.

The assist numbers highlight a problem in ball-movement and player movement on offense that will need to be fixed as there are no remaining games against teams not in a “Power Five” conference and only one against a team outside the Big 12 (Mississippi State on Jan. 30).

Defenses will continue to put pressure on Iowa State’s backcourt, meaning that the movement on offense will need to improve.

Iowa State’s next game will be against No. 2 Baylor at home, which will be one of the toughest tests of the year for Prohm and his team.