Cyclones gets one last chance to grab a road win against Kansas State

Rasir Bolton helps Prentiss Nixon up on March 3 against West Virginia in Iowa State’s final home game of the season at Hilton Coliseum.

Matt Belinson

With just one regular season game left, Iowa State’s regular season, a regular season riddled with issue after issue, has reached its end. 

From its lack of consistency in three-point shooting, injuries, new lineups and lack of physicality on defense, Iowa State’s season has had more challenges than victories. Those have led to the Cyclones sitting in ninth place in the Big 12 heading into the regular season finale. 

And yet out of all the aforementioned issues and inconsistencies the Cyclones have had to overcome throughout the regular season, another wrinkle that highlights Iowa State’s season of struggles will be at the forefront when Iowa State takes on the Kansas State Wildcats Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.

The wrinkle: Iowa State has yet to win on the road.

Head Coach Steve Prohm said the Cyclones’ challenges on the road have not boiled down to one nagging problem, rather, every loss on the road this season has added up to a lack of execution and that many teams hold a tough home environment to walk into an grab a win. 

Whether it was allowing TCU to throw up a shot in the closing seconds of its season opener loss to the Horned Frogs, having Texas to jump a late scoring run with than three minutes left or a blowout loss to Oklahoma, Prohm said all of the losses have had signs of lack of awareness in key moments and confusion on assignments across the board.

Holding an 0-10 record on the road is a new and daunting reality for the Cyclones to face heading into the end of their regular season.

The Cyclones haven’t lost more than 10 games on the road over the past decade and if they lose on Saturday to the Wildcats and end the year 0-11 on outside of Hilton, it would be the worst road record over the last two decades in program history. The only record worse than the possible 0-11 record would be Iowa State’s 1-12 record on the road in the 2001-02 season.

With all of that negative history on the line, Prohm said Iowa State showed new signs of competitiveness and toughness in the second half against West Virginia on Tuesday, where the Cyclones held the Mountaineers scoreless for the first 5:38 of the second half. Prohm liked the constant attack Iowa State put on West Virginia and found its way to the basket over and over. 

Prohm said if Iowa State wants to avoid going winless on the road, that same level of energy and aggressiveness will have to stick around for 40 minutes, not just a half in order to carry that onto the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I would love to bottle that up for 40 minutes and get some momentum going to Kansas City,” Prohm said.

In his three years at Iowa State, Solomon Young has found himself in a position of potentially not winning at least once on the road and knows execution is the first and last piece to solve for the Cyclones. In Young’s freshman season in 2017-18, the Cyclones ended the year 0-10 on the road, where Young sees similar struggles.

Execution and mental toughness are two common threads Young noticed when it comes to not winning a game on the road, where having your mind and physicality at peak levels is especially important. Hostile environments like Allen Fieldhouse or United Markets Arena will test how well you have prepared your game and whether you know your assignments to the best of your ability.

“Sometimes I think we have these lulls, three to five minute stretches where we aren’t getting into anything or not getting a lot of stops,” Young said. “I think if we get those lulls out of our offense and defense, we could probably have one to two more road wins under our belt.”

Young said winning on the road comes with having experience, something that most of the starters on the Cyclones don’t have to the level that Young or Michael Jacobson have. In the current starting lineup, two underclassmen have big responsibilities in freshman Tre Jackson and sophomore Rasir Bolton. Both are looked to be main staples on the defensive end while also hitting their open shots on offense, with both playing just 30 games as Cyclones. 

Jackson said his increasing experience in the starting lineup has shown him what he can get away with in tough environments and against stingy defenses. Having started 10 games as a Cyclone, Jackson said winning in general comes down to younger players having to know sets, getting older and growing mentally and understanding physicality.

Winning on the road is the same formula but Jackson said the best way to figure out how to win on the road is by continuing to play on the road.

“We have to know that we can get a road win, we’ve been struggling this season on the road,” Jackson said. “I know we can get one, we had some tough losses on the road that we should have won.”

Iowa State and Kansas State will tipoff at 3 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+.