Iowa State hosts Oklahoma State in search of answers

Senior forward Michael Jacobson during the men’s basketball game against then-No. 3 Kansas on Jan. 8 in Hilton Coliseum.

Matt Belinson

Although it may be hard to believe, Iowa State faces an important game ahead against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-8, 0-5 Big 12) in Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Cowboys may be losers of five straight games and don’t have a win in conference play but Iowa State (8-9, 1-4 Big 12) is in desperate need of a win after falling by 20 points on Saturday to No. 18 Texas Tech.

The Cyclones are in search of answers as they return home, with questions about continued three-point struggles, turnovers and a lack of toughness, Iowa State is still trying to figure out what is hurting them the most ahead of a big matchup against Oklahoma State with the possibility of falling to last place in the Big 12 with already five games in the books.

Coach Steve Prohm’s answers lie in the Cyclone’s confidence on offense.

Prohm said that Iowa State is at the point now where wide open three pointers may not be the best look its offense can get, making it a point of emphasis to feed the big men in the paint to either go up for a score or bring the defense in to kick it back out to shooters.

Iowa State has been used to decent shooters in the past, making Prohm hesitant to say to his team to turn down wide open shots, even when they continue to not fall.

“I hate telling guy not to shoot wide open shots at this level but we gotta make an emphasis of driving when we can like we did against Oklahoma,” Prohm said.

After losing two back to back games scoring less than 60 points, Prohm said the Cyclones need to find new ways to generate offense, especially if the three-point shots continue to become wasted possessions.

One of the big points Prohm wants his team to try and look for more often is paint touches. By feeding the ball inside to the big men like George Conditt and Michael Jacobson, mismatches on switches and easier kick outs leaves room for Iowa State to generate much easier baskets than the high volume of contested and wide open three pointers they continue to take and miss.

It all comes back to himself when it comes to how Iowa State is prepared coming into any game.

“I gotta do a better job preparing them, Prohm said. “I gotta figure out ways to get them better, that’s all I can do, that’s all I am thinking about is ‘how do I get these guys confident’?” Prohm said.

Confidence is a key piece in how Rasir Bolton looks at the questions that still face the Cyclones ahead of yet another important game.

Coming off a seven-point outing against Texas Tech, Bolton still believes that Iowa State needs to continue playing with confidence, even if wide open shots aren’t connecting.

If the Cyclones get in their own head and begin to feel nervous about taking open shots, it will be worse for a group that is already in the midst of struggles.

“Confidence comes with your work so you know if you work hard then you really don’t need to be nervous when you out there, just keep working,” Bolton said. 

Even though the Cyclones shot 3-22 from three against the Red Raiders and have shot 35-122 from distance in Big 12 play, Bolton said the Cyclones have to continue finding better looks from three to make them easier to make.

Bolton said there is only one way the shooting can improve: Keep trying the shot.

“The only way you make the three is if you shoot it,” Bolton said.

Jacobson echoes the confidence that Bolton said but admits the three point shot is starting to become a hinderance on how Iowa State’s offense can compete with others in the Big 12.

“If you go 3-22 from three, and it seems like we are doing that a lot, it’s going to be really hard to win games,” Jacobson said. 

Jacobson said Iowa State has to start thinking more about forcing the ball inside the paint, getting touches to the big men and making the floor wider for Iowa State’s perimeter shooters.

However, Jacobson sees the talent around him and doesn’t want his teammates ever passing up open shots in the Big 12.

“It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve seen to be honest because I feel like we have good shooters, we got guys that can put the ball in the basket but for whatever reason it’s not going in,” Jacobson said.