The Big 12/SEC challenge provides a tough test for the Cyclones

Tyrese Haliburton jumps for a layup against Iowa on December 12th.

Zane Douglas

Iowa State takes a break from the conference play on Saturday for a showdown with one of the top teams in the nation in the Big 12/SEC challenge.

The team in question is No. 16 Auburn who, after two close losses, dropped 12 spots in the ranking. Iowa State’s previous game was a win, but in the same vein as the Tigers, Iowa State was on a rough stretch of games — mostly against top competition.

After a break against some of the big teams, Iowa State got to face Oklahoma State — a team that was around the Cyclones’ skill level — and the Cyclones dominated the game, only letting it get close at the end.

“You get an unbelievable energy down there,” said Coach Steve Prohm. “[Auburn’s] arena now, they sell out.”

“It’ll be a great environment for our guys.”

Auburn is led by an entire starting cast that produces at a high level with four of them averaging double figures for the Tigers.

Guard Samir Doughty is the highest scorer for the Tigers as he averages 14.4 points per game and forward Isaac Okoro and guard J’Von McCormick are averaging 12.6 and 11 points per game respectively.

The Cyclones have needed to rely on two producers in the forms of Tyrese Haliburton and Rasir Bolton. Haliburton has been the consistent one and has garnered so much attention that he’s being looked at as a possible lottery pick in the 2020 draft. 

Bolton on the other hand has steadily improved while the season has moved along, and without much of a three point game, it wasn’t easy for him to be effective early.

Bolton found his stroke during the game against the Cowboys.

“I’ve been working, they finally decided to fall,” Bolton said. “I’m just happy they’re going in.”

Bolton started the game on fire with Iowa State’s first nine points being threes from the sophomore and while he didn’t keep up the same production all game, he was able to be efficient and still score over 20 points while ending 4-6 from the three-point line.

It was a breakthrough that was sorely needed for the Cyclones who have recently struggled to find shot creation outside of the pick and roll with Haliburton and forward George Conditt.

Auburn gives the Cyclones a different look. Prohm has thrown small ball lineups into the court this season with mixed results, but against Oklahoma State it worked and helped the Cyclones for a few short bursts.

Auburn has long wings, which will call into question the effectiveness of such a lineup.

A date with one of the premiere out of conference teams in the nation warrants heavy attention however, and the Cyclones will be eyes on them as they look to drop the Tigers falling ranking even more at 11 p.m. on Saturday in Auburn, Alabama.

“They’re gonna pack the house,” Haliburton said. “It’s gonna be loud.”