Cyclones go up against Drake, face questions about weeks ahead


Sophomore forward Zoran Talley Jr. scores a basket during the game against the Southern University Jaguars on Dec. 9 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones ended the game with a win of 101-65.

Noah Rohlfing

Time is running out for Iowa State to get its full complement of players back before conference play begins on Jan. 2.

With Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young suiting up on Saturday in the final Hy-Vee Classic as they get back up to speed (coach Steve Prohm said Thursday that Wigginton needs a full week of practice before playing), the Cyclones will have at least one more game without two key players. 

Up first for Iowa State, though, is a game on Saturday against the Drake Bulldogs at Wells Fargo Arena.

Drake is 6-1 on the season, with its loss being a 100-71 rout at the hands of Colorado. Since then, the Bulldogs have won five straight, including wins over Milwaukee and Boise State. 

Prohm said the Bulldogs have impressed. 

“I think Darian [DeVries] has done a great job,” Prohm said. “He’s brought in some immediate guys, three fifth-year guys, that have really impacted his program.

“They spread the floor.”

Drake averages 9.6 made 3-pointers per game, shooting 34.9 percent from deep on the season and averaging more than two threes per game compared to its opponents. That perimeter scoring has contributed to the Bulldogs averaging 80.4 points per game this season. 

On the defensive end of the floor, the Bulldogs are giving up 72.4 points per game and forcing opponents to shoot 28.6 percent from 3-point range. 

Weiler-Babb said the Cyclones have to focus on defense to keep Drake from getting hot. 

“A lot of pressure,” Weiler-Babb said. “If we contest shots and make the shots they do take tough, then that’s what we want to do.”

The Cyclones are in an interesting spot, with an 8-2 record and winnable games against Drake and Eastern Illinois to play in the non-conference slate — something the Cyclones will likely take given that none of those games have featured the team at full-strength.

However, the Cyclones have formed an identity in the absence of Wigginton, Young, Cam Lard and Zoran Talley Jr., to the point that Lard and Talley Jr. have each yet to play more than 20 minutes in a game since returning to the court Dec. 3 against North Dakota State.

That identity has been built on defensive pressure and creating transition points, something that has helped mitigate the Cyclones’ lack of shot creators without Wigginton. 

Among the many surprises on this Cyclone team so far has been sophomore Terrence Lewis, who has been giving the Cyclones a scorer off the bench and a switchable defender.

Lewis said his defense has been his biggest improvement from his freshman year. 

“I really think that got me where I’m at right now,” Lewis said. 

But, as it’s been seen with the slow integrations of Talley and Lard back into the lineup, Iowa State will have to consider what the bet strategy is with Wigginton, and what the Cyclones’ best lineup will eventually look like. 

Missing them against Drake leaves the Eastern Illinois game on Dec. 21 as an opportunity to get Wigginton and Young game action before heading to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to start Big 12 play against Oklahoma State. How the team meshes once Wigginton and Young are back in the rotation will be key to how the Cyclones’ season pans out.

First, though, they’ll have to get past the Bulldogs on Saturday.