Iowa State leans on freshmen talents to earn a win against Western Illinois

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm questions a call by an official during the game against Western Illinois on Nov. 25.

Brian Mozey

It looked like another long night at Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State ended the first half with a 29-25 lead over Western Illinois on Saturday night, while shooting 11-for-33, 33 percent, from the floor and 6-for-19, 31.6 percent, from behind the arc.

It wasn’t turnovers or personal fouls that made it a close lead for the Cyclones at the half. It was just plain shooting. Not hitting the shots that the team knew it could hit.

Then, at halftime, coach Steve Prohm came into the locker room and made it quick and easy because he knew his players were ready for the second half.

“Coach just came in and said we aren’t playing to our potential right now,” said redshirt junior guard Nick Weiler-Babb. “We have more to give and we weren’t honestly playing with pace.”

Well that pace picked up at the start of the second half and it became a brand-new game for Iowa State. The Cyclones had zero fast break points in the first half, but that number became six in the second half.

That pace came from the energy of freshman guard Lindell Wigginton and redshirt freshman forward Cameron Lard. Those two took control of the game and made it an easier win for Iowa State as the Cyclones finished off Western Illinois with a 70-45 final score.

Wigginton started off the game, on the first Iowa State possession, with a 3-pointer and ended the first half with five points. In the second half, he became the primary target shooting three more 3-pointers and ending his night with a career-high 21 points.

“Lindell [Wigginton], I thought he was really aggressive, he made threes tonight,” Prohm said. “[He] put pressure on the rim and found a couple guys. [He] had six assists and one turnover, I thought that was good steps for him.”

Not only did Wigginton score 21 points, but he had the complete package with six assists and five rebounds and only played 27 minutes. Towards the end of the game, Wigginton had a couple of pinpoint passes to Terrence Lewis that led to a couple of easy layups for the freshman guard.

Wigginton said his confidence will definitely be lifted after this type of performance, but he also appreciated the help from the inside forwards, specifically Lard.

“[Cameron Lard] is an energetic guy,” Wigginton said. “Every day, not just in the games, every day in practice he’s an energetic guy. He gets us going, even when he’s not having his best day.”

Lard was having one of his best days today and it started in warmups. He was getting Hilton Coliseum ready with dunk after dunk after dunk. He had a smile on his face.

When he was put into the game with 14:42 left in the first half, Lard made a quick layup to give Iowa State a four-point lead at that point. That would be the only two points he would have in the first half, but his energy came out in the second half.

Lard was quick on transitions allowing Iowa State to have a man in the paint on fast breaks. This fast pace allowed Lard to score a career-high 14 points in the game. Along with the points, Lard had five rebounds and shot 7-for-9 on the floor, 77.7 percent.

“Cameron [Lard] has a chance to be a good player,” Prohm said. “We just got to keep working with him and get him more fundamental, so he’s not turning it over or getting it stripped like he did a couple times.”

Even with some of the minor improvements that need to come out of Wigginton and Lard, Prohm was happy with the performances from the two freshmen and young players on the team.

Weiler-Babb and senior guard Donovan Jackson led the team during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and, for Prohm, it was nice to see a couple younger players take charge for a game.

Now, Iowa State has eight days with zero games. Its next game is on December 4, so now that energy and fast pace need to stick in the players’ heads for about a week.

“We just have to go hard in practice every day,” Wigginton said. “Just stay humble. Humble and hungry. Just go after every win we can.”