Belinson: Lack of execution shouldn’t fall on coaching

The Cyclones huddle together during their matchup against No. 1 Baylor on Wednesday.

Matt Belinson

After giving away a win to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, the Iowa State men’s basketball team has once again shown it doesn’t know how to respond during runs by its opponents.

It has plagued them pretty much all of conference play, especially during the big games when coming away with a win was so important for a team who needs every win it can get to even try and create a post-season resume.

This lack of execution during opponents’ runs has shown time and time again that Steve Prohm isn’t to blame for how his team responds in some of the biggest games the Cyclones have had this season.

Now, I am not saying Prohm doesn’t deserve blame when Iowa State loses in blowout fashion, but his team’s constant lack of poise during key stretches in big games shouldn’t continue to fall on him.

Careless turnovers and quick possessions on offense, resulting in forced shots with plenty of time left and strange fouls, shouldn’t be placed on the coaching staff of the Cyclones; instead, the players on the floor should be held accountable.

Some may say that it is a head coach’s job to contain runs and read his team’s emotions and body language to give them a break during a run by an opponent; but some, like myself, believe that at this level and the professionals, players need to be able to stand their own and be able to handle small bits of adversity.

However, it has now come to the point where it has to be said: Iowa State can’t execute when it needs to the most.

The most recent example was against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, a game in which the Cyclones led by five points with 3:27 left in the game. Is it on Prohm that his players allowed a 14-5 run over the final three minutes of the game, shot 2-6 from the floor with two turnovers and bad fouls in between that gave the Longhorns free trips to the foul line? No, it’s not.

The game before that, Iowa State played host to No. 1 Baylor on Wednesday, a matchup that both Prohm and his players said was going to be a matchup where focus and aggressiveness was emphasized. That game plan was working, as the Cyclones hung with the Bears for much of the first half, until Prohm was called for a technical foul after arguing an offensive foul call on Solomon Young.

Prohm admitted after the game that he shouldn’t give away points when his team needed everything to go their way to try and upset the No. 1 team in the country.

Prohm should have exacted better self control in the moment — his team got completely dominated after that call. Now, the two free throws — sure, that’s on Prohm. But giving up a run that lasted over seven minutes with five turnovers and 1-7 shooting is just a blatant lack of execution in a situation where Iowa State should have been able to rally behind its coach getting a technical.

The crowd was fired up, and the bench for the Cyclones was loud right after, hoping it would be the momentum shift that would give the Cyclones a way to get over the top. Instead, the Cyclones got rolled over, panicked and could not make simple plays. The Bears would go on a 17-2 run after Prohm’s technical foul that sparked the Bears and totally buried the Cyclones in a game that Iowa State was only down by five at the time of the infraction.

Go back even further and the same story was written in the first matchup against Baylor on Jan. 15.

The Cyclones were about to walk into the locker room down by two, but then, Tre Jackson fouls Davion Mitchell at the 3-point line. Mitchell hit all three free throws, and the Cyclones were then in a 5-point deficit. The struggles to execute and respond transitioned into the second half. Baylor put the Cyclones away on a 17-3 run in the first six minutes where the Cyclones were 1-7 with two turnovers. 

I could pull more examples from Iowa State’s season, but by now, the point is clear. As head coach, Prohm may just have to take the heat from his team’s lack of composure and response during adversity, but I don’t think that is fair.

How many times can Prohm’s team be right where they need to be, only to just hand the game away to their opponent with no response to be found? Iowa State still has some ranked opponents left on the schedule, and every game against a ranked Big 12 opponent has been within reach, only for the Cyclones to collapse.

If Iowa State wants to finish with an even close to a respectable record, it has to be able to weather the storms that tough competition will bring and not just fold up. That has to start Wednesday against West Virginia.