Cyclones focusing on improving defense, effort against Texas Tech

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm buries his head in his hands after an intentional foul is called on the Cyclones in the final minutes of the 83-78 loss at Kansas.

Aaron Marner

One win. Five losses.

That’s not an ideal record for any team, but it’s the reality for coach Steve Prohm and the Iowa State men’s basketball team. It’s not completely unfamiliar territory, however.

Two years ago, the Cyclones started 1-3 in the Big 12 in Prohm’s first season at Iowa State. The difference, of course, is that the 2015-16 Cyclones had two seniors who went on to get picked in the NBA Draft after the season. That was a ranked Iowa State team, led by veterans who had done nothing but win at the college level.

But 1-3 is different than 1-5. And this year, Georges Niang isn’t coming to the rescue.

“We’ve got three guys in our program that have been here one year,” Prohm said. “We have nobody who’s played here for two years. You can probably do a stat like that across the country and I bet there’s not another team like that.”

The team knows its been struggling. The solution just isn’t easy. With so many young players getting playing time, part of the problem may be just that — time.

If Iowa State (10-7, 1-5 Big 12) wants to beat No. 8 Texas Tech (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) at Hilton on Saturday at 1 p.m., those young players will have to grow up fast.

The Red Raiders have a balanced attack on offense, with 10 players averaging at least four points per game. They’re led by senior guard Keenan Evans, who is averaging 17.5 points per game.

If Iowa State guards Texas Tech and Evans like it guarded TCU on Wednesday, Saturday won’t be pretty for the Cyclones.

“We came out there and we looked lazy,” said junior guard Nick Weiler-Babb. “We couldn’t get a stop. We couldn’t get our coverages right. We weren’t focused, we weren’t locked in at all.”

That lack of focus resulted in TCU scoring 96 points (1.48 points per possession). The points came from everywhere, too.

The Horned Frogs shot 12-of-25 on 3-pointers. Inside the arc, they hit 26-of-38 attempts.

Some of that was a simple lack of effort.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Weiler-Babb said. “People say we’re young, but we got older guys on the court, guys that have been in college before so it’s extremely frustrating that we played soft and we played lazy. That’s unacceptable.”

Against Texas Tech, that won’t be acceptable either.

“We’ve just got to prepare them the right way,” Prohm said. “We all have to do better. They should be ready to go each and every day.”

Texas Tech provides a different challenge for Iowa State than anyone else the Cyclones have played. The Red Raiders are defensive-minded, and rank third nationally in defensive efficiency per KenPom.

Texas is currently ranked sixth in that category. Other than that, the Cyclones are yet to face an elite defense. It’s probably no coincidence that Texas held Iowa State to 61 points in regulation when the Longhorns came to Ames.

No matter how well Iowa State plays offensively, the Red Raiders defense will likely keep the scoring total low. And for that reason, Iowa State’s defense needs to step up.

“We’ll get better,” Prohm said. “And that’s the biggest thing, we’ve just got to keep getting better right now. You can play well and lose in this league, that’s the tough part.

“But you can play well and win and get a lot of quality wins. Like I told them, you can flip your season in this league in a four-game stretch.”