Cyclones face ‘Press Virginia’ without Weiler-Babb

Iowa State junior Nick Weiler-Babb drives into multiple defenders during the first half against Tennessee on Jan. 27.

Aaron Marner

Iowa State enters its first game against West Virginia this season with a new challenge.

Redshirt junior starting point guard Nick Weiler-Babb will miss at least the next two games with a knee injury that has plagued him since before the start of the season.

“Nick will be out the next week, possibly two weeks,” said coach Steve Prohm. “For at least the next two games he’ll be out, and then we’ll re-evaluate next week sometime.”

That’s especially a problem for Iowa State (11-9, 2-6 Big 12) against a team like West Virginia (16-5, 5-3 Big 12). When the No. 15 Mountaineers and Cyclones face off at 6 p.m. this Wednesday in Hilton Coliseum, West Virginia’s press will have the potential to be even stronger than usual.

West Virginia ranks second in the nation in turnover percentage at 26 percent, according to KenPom. When Kentucky pulled off a come-from-behind victory at West Virginia last weekend, it did so despite turning the ball over 16 times.

And now, the Cyclones must face that challenge without their starting point guard.

Prohm said freshman guard Lindell Wigginton and senior guard Donovan Jackson will handle point guard duties in the meantime.

“Both of those guys, especially when you’re playing West Virginia [have to play the point] … if Lindell’s got [the ball], he’ll initiate the offense,” Prohm said.

Taking care of the ball will be the main challenge for Jackson, Wigginton and the rest of the team.

Weiler-Babb has 139 assists and 53 turnovers this year (2.62 ratio). That’s a solid number for a point guard and it would’ve been valuable against “Press Virginia.”

Wigginton and Jackson, however? Neither of them have an assist-to-turnover ratio better than 1.0, which will be a problem. So how does Iowa State beat the press?

“Ball movement,” Wigginton said. “Not trying to dribble through the press. The ball moves faster than people.”

And winning at Hilton is nothing new to West Virginia. The Mountaineers have won at Hilton each of the last two years — accounting for two of Iowa State’s four home Big 12 losses in that time.

At Big 12 media day in October, Mountaineer guard Jevon Carter raved about Hilton’s atmosphere.

“Their fans are crazy at Iowa State,” Carter said. “That place gets loud. The fans get there a couple hours before the game, the student section gets packed, it’s just a great experience to play there.”

That “great experience” will only continue for Carter if Iowa State isn’t able to figure out the full court pressure from West Virginia.

If the Cyclones can get some easy buckets in transition after breaking the press, maybe the Mountaineers’ winning streak in Ames will stop at two.

“We’ve got to play with what we’ve got,” Wigginton said. “It’s a big miss because Nick’s great with the ball, he’s great at handling pressure. It’s a big miss but I’m ready to step up to the challenge and do what I’ve got to do.”