Iowa State faces another top-15 opponent in No. 9 Oklahoma

Tre Jackson shoots the ball against then-No. 17 West Virginia on Feb. 2, 2021 at Hilton Coliseum.

Zane Douglas

An 0-12 start to conference play for the Cyclones has left them scrambling for a win in conference play down the stretch with the regular season’s end closing in.

Iowa State will get another chance for its first Big 12 win Saturday against No. 9 Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum.

“[The Sooners] play with great, great toughness and great purpose defensively,” Iowa State Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “[They’re] really, really active.”

The Sooners are 13-5 with a solid number of quality wins under their belt, but last time they played Iowa State, it almost went south for them down the stretch.

The Cyclones played Oklahoma close, only losing 79-72 on the road Feb. 6, and Iowa State’s 51.6 percent from 3-point range along with having its full roster (minus Xavier Foster and Blake Hinson) didn’t hurt.

The first matchup was the first game all of Iowa State’s players returned from health and safety protocols.

But Iowa State’s three-game stretch of close losses has now been answered by three straight double-digit losses, including a 33-point bludgeoning from Kansas on Feb. 11 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Sophomore guard Tre Jackson said for Saturday he’s focused on a few players for Oklahoma — Austin Reaves, Umoja Gibson and Elijah Harkless in particular.

Those three put up a combined 53 of Oklahoma’s 79 points in the first matchup between these two teams.

Jackson also said the Cyclones need to close games better than they have been.

“When it comes down to the stretch we have to be locked in,” Jackson said. “We have to rebound the ball and we have to play all 40 minutes as hard as we can… we need a win.”

The last few games have seen an increase in playing time for another Iowa State guard in the form of freshman Jaden Walker.

Walker however, didn’t get a chance to play as much against Oklahoma, only tallying 21 minutes and not shooting the ball once for just two points on free throws.

The ramp up in minutes lately has given Walker some up-and-down games. He led the team in rebounds (14) and assists (four) against Kansas in Ames, but against Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Walker went 0-6 shooting in 22 minutes.

“I’m still learning,” Walker said. “Coach [Prohm] has been trying to play [Rasir Bolton] off the ball more and I’m just trying to keep progressing and getting better.”

On Oklahoma’s side, go the three players Jackson mentioned, Reaves has been the one to excel the most, leading the Sooners.

Reaves leads his team in scoring with 16.6 points per game, rebounding with 5.6 rebounds per game and assists with 5.4 assists per game. He’s doing this in 33.3 minutes per game, which also leads the Sooners.

In the last meeting between the two teams, Reaves flirted with a triple double, scoring 16 points and eight rebounds and assists each.

Prohm mentioned multiple Oklahoma players, including Reaves, that the Cyclones have to stop in order to come away with their first conference win.

“I think they’ve got a bunch of different guys that can be really efficient and spread you out,” Prohm said. “[…] they do a great job kind of isolating you and being able to really, really drive you.”