Cyclones hope to continue winning streak to close out non-conference season

Head coach Steve Prohm discusses a play with Lindell Wigginton, guard, during the men’s basketball game against Alcorn State on Dec. 10 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones won 78-58.

Brian Mozey

The Iowa State men’s basketball players can see that five-day winter break come closer and closer into view. The ability to see family and friends or just stay in Ames and enjoy a small break from practices and school.

The only thing in the way from that small break is a game on Wednesday night against Maryland Eastern Shore at Hilton Coliseum.

The Hawks are similar to the Northern Iowa Panthers that Iowa State defeated last Saturday in the Hy-Vee Classic. Even though UNI is ranked 83rd among the 351 Division I teams according to KenPom and Maryland Eastern Shore is ranked 345th, the two teams share similar tempo styles.

“Maryland Eastern Shore, they’ve played at Creighton, at Virginia Tech, where you’re going to control tempo,” said coach Steve Prohm. “They’ll move the ball and then get it to their action. Whether that’s ball screens, shuffle stagger, what we call Utah action, they’ll start it late in the clock.”

Maryland Eastern Shore is dead last in Division I rankings when it comes to average offensive possession length, according to KenPom. The Hawks hold onto the ball for 20.7 of the 30-second shot clock per offensive possession. Northern Iowa falls onto the list at 349th with an average of 20.2 seconds.

Iowa State knew about the slow tempo the Panthers were going to bring on Saturday night, so the Cyclones came out fast from the tip-off, which helped and hurt them. The first couple of minutes, Iowa State looked like it was controlling tempo with a 5-0 lead and running up and down the court faster than Northern Iowa wanted.

Then, after those couple minutes, the Cyclones tried to push the tempo too hard and it backfired on Prohm and the Iowa State players. The team lost control of the tempo and also were fighting for the lead the entire first half.

Iowa State never gained control of the lead until the first part of the second half when the team refocused on the task at hand and came out a different team to close out the game.

“We just have to stay focused for this upcoming game,” Prohm said. “The break is right around the corner and we just need to finish the non-conference season strong.”

Maryland Eastern Shore is being outscored by its opponents with a 987-673 margin this season, which means opponents are averaging 82.25 points per game against the Hawks. Prohm always says he wants to hit 80 points each game and that will give Iowa State a better chance to win.

KenPom is predicting Iowa State will win on Wednesday with an 85-59 final score and gives Maryland Eastern Shore a one percent chance to defeat the Cyclones on the road. Even though Iowa State is favored heavily in this game, the players aren’t taking the Hawks lightly, especially with the long winter break right around the corner.

“I think [the Milwaukee loss] played a big role,” said senior guard Donovan Jackson. “Everybody took back from that and just wanted to prove everybody wrong. That was a major upset. That’s the key game that you have to look back at and wonder like never get too high and never get too low.”

Milwaukee was a turning point for the entire Iowa State team. Jackson said the team realized they were better than how they played. After that loss, the Cyclones went on an eight-game winning streak and are looking to extend that to nine on Wednesday night.

Jackson said the winning streak has allowed the opportunity for the team to become closer with one another. He’s noticed that more players are finding times to grab lunch or just hang out in the gym.

The majority of the Iowa State players are new to the Ames area, so building that chemistry throughout non-conference season will be a big step for the Cyclones when Big 12 season comes around the corner.

“We definitely need [toughness] for the Big 12 Conference because it’s the best conference in the country,” Jackson said. “We just got to keep bringing the toughness and the grit and just be ready for war.”