Iowa State faces last year’s runner up in an important game

Sophomore Guard Rasir Bolton during men’s basketball game against No.3 Kansas 11-2 (1-0 Big 12) in Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 8.

Zane Douglas

Iowa State (8-8, 1-3 Big 12) faces the challenge of taking down last season’s runner ups, No. 23 Texas Tech (11-5, 2-2 Big 12), in Lubbock, Texas.

The Cyclones and the Red Raiders have played tough schedules so far — especially in conference play — and will add to that Saturday afternoon.

“We have be mentally tougher, physically tougher and emotionally tougher to where when things do go bad and you are down 10, can you handle it and come back,” said coach Steve Prohm.

Texas Tech lost its two best season to the NBA at the conclusion of last season including guard Jarrett Culver who went No. 6 in the NBA draft. This season, the Red Raiders have turned to a freshman to carry them.

On 45.5 percent shooting and 44.8 percent from three, Jahmi’us Ramsey is averaging 16.3 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game in just over 30 minutes per game.

The guard focuses on his scoring first and despite the position, does not dish out a ton of assists, but Ramsey has still done a nice job helping to keep Texas Tech afloat coming out of high school.

On the other side, Iowa State is led by its own guard, but this time it comes in the form of Tyrese Haliburton — who has been key in keeping the Cyclones at least somewhat in the win column.

Despite Haliburton’s efforts, the Cyclones have struggled this season against top competition, as their games against Baylor and Kansas were not even close.

Haliburton should be able to help that, but the sophomore has been rather pedestrian in those two games — averaging 5.5 points per game on 4-19 shooting as opposed to 15.9 points per game and 49.7 percent shooting he has averaged all season.

“That’s what I signed up for I guess,” Haliburton said. “Coming into the Big 12 I knew that it was gonna be a challenge night in and night out.”

Haliburton thrives when he dishes the ball out and with his size, Haliburton can flirt with triple-doubles.

He’s a huge part of the team, but Haliburton has help — mostly in the forms of forward George Conditt and guard Rasir Bolton.

The two have played well this year with the former coming off the bench for most of the year and just recently being upgraded to the starting lineup.

“They’re a good, hard-nosed team,” Conditt said. “They’ve always been tough defensively.”

Conditt has played well this season — especially on the defensive end — and with Haliburton, he is a perfect match off the pick-and-roll.

Bolton is a different type of player, but while Haliburton has shown the ability to drive and score, Bolton has been the master in that area with a unique ability from the rest of the team to penetrate the defense, get to the foul line and finish through traffic.

While Bolton’s percentages haven’t been as good as Haliburton’s — 14.8 points on 42.9 percent shooting — the sophomore has grown more consistent as the season has progressed.

“The biggest challenge with him that I talked about all the time is just his playmaking when you get in the paint is making good decisions and no wasted shots and you know making a play for somebody else,” Prohm said. “Those are things you gotta continue to grow in.”

The Red Raiders have their scoring distributed evenly, with four players averaging more than 10 points. David Moretti, Terrence Shannon jr. and Kyler Edwards all are in double digit scoring.

The team is balanced, but the unquestioned No. 1 scoring option is Ramsey, and it’ll be a tall task for the Cyclones to stop him on Saturday.

Rather than worry about the other team, Haliburton is focused on his own team for Saturday.

“The problem right now is just consistency, you know being able to do the right thing for multiple games, multiple times in the game,” Haliburton said. “We’re just figuring that out right now.”