Iowa State focusing on Oklahoma’s Trae Young for Saturday’s matchup

Freshman Lindell Wigginton dribbling down the court during the game against West Virginia University at the Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 31.

Brian Mozey

At this time of the Big 12 regular season, most of the teams have played each other at least once. Iowa State has one team that it hasn’t seen yet, and they are coming to Hilton Coliseum this Saturday.

That team would be the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Sooners are in the top half of the Big 12 standings but rely on one particular player for their success. Freshman guard Trae Young is one of the best college basketball players this season and has been projected to be selected in the top 10 of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Freshman guard Lindell Wigginton and senior guard Donovan Jackson will have the task to not only stop Young, but keep up with the fast-paced Sooners on Saturday.

“[Trae has] terrific talent, an amazing year,” Prohm said. “I think he’s handled himself through the ups and downs very well.”

Young has the ability to find his own shot or find an open teammate for the basket.

The Norman, Oklahoma, native is averaging 29.9 points per game and 9.3 assists per game along with four rebounds per game and 41 total steals. He has scored 687 of the 2,051 Sooner points, translating to 33 percent of Oklahoma’s points this season.

Young, however, also has a weak spot. That weakness is turnovers.

Young has turned the ball over 122 times this season, which averages to 5.3 turnovers per game. Oklahoma has turned the ball over 317 times this season as a team, so Young accounts for 38.5 percent of the Sooners’ turnovers.

Iowa State will look to use that soft spot to their advantage in front of its home crowd.

“For every turnover, they’re going to make two, three special plays,” Prohm said. “Your hope is that you can do a good job defensively and be able to score off your defense some because he does turn it over.”

It’s going to be a team effort to guard Young and Prohm knows it’ll take more than just one particular player. He said he could see Wigginton, Jackson or Zoran Talley Jr. guarding the Sooner guard throughout the game.

Prohm doesn’t have many players to choose from this weekend as there will be eight healthy players once again. Nick Weiler-Babb and Hans Brase will be out for the Oklahoma game with knee injuries.

“I have no clue, just need to take it day by day,” Weiler-Babb said on his return to the court. “I can’t worry about [the next steps].”

Since Weiler-Babb will be out, Wigginton and Jackson will have the task of sharing point guard roles. Wigginton said it’s been an adjustment because he’s never been the true point guard for his past teams, but he said it comes down to practice.

A lot of attention is focused on Wigginton and Young for this game as they both are highly recruited freshmen guards and it’ll be a battle between the two of them.

Wigginton shut down that conversation pretty quick, saying it’s a team game and that’s what Iowa State needs to focus on come Saturday.

“It’s not a one-on-one game. It’s a team game,” Wigginton said. “I’m worried about getting my teammates the ball first and whatever I bring to the table is gonna come. I know what I can do.”

Young isn’t a new face to Wigginton as the two have faced off twice in the past. The first was during AAU basketball and the other was at the international level between Wigginton’s Canadian team and Young’s United States team.

Wigginton said that his team lost that game, but both of them played a good game. Not to the level that Young is playing right now.

“He didn’t play like this [back then],” Wigginton said. “I mean he got better I guess.”

On Iowa State’s side, Prohm looks to control foul trouble, which became a problem against Texas Tech on Wednesday night. Cameron Lard came out of the game quickly after picking up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, which brought the eight players Prohm could play to seven.

Prohm understands that he needs to take some chances with Lard when he has two fouls because he’s a vital part to Iowa State’s all-around game. It’s that fine line between playing physical and playing smart that will lead Iowa State out of foul trouble.

It’ll be a new team for Iowa State, which Wigginton is looking forward to on Saturday, but he understands it’s the Big 12 season. 

There’s no easy game.