Iowa State not backing down to Purdue’s size advantage


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Freshman Solomon Young goes up for a layup during a game against the Nevada Wolf Pack, March 16 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The Cyclones won 84-73, and will play Purdue this Saturday in the Round of 32. 

Ryan Young

MILWAUKEE — In just his second year at the helm, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm will have a chance to reach his second-straight Sweet 16.

The road, though, will not be an easy one.

No. 5 Iowa State (24-10, 12-6 Big 12) will take on No. 4 Purdue (26-7, 14-4 Big Ten) on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner will head to the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, Missouri, next weekend.

The Boilermakers are a big team. They average nearly seven more rebounds than their opponents this season. Caleb Swanigan, their starting big man, averages a double-double this season with 18.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.

He stands at 6 foot 9. Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s other starting forward, stands at 6 foot 8. Center Isaac Haas, who comes off the bench to average 12.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, is listed at 7 foot 2.

So just about any way one looks at it, Purdue is going to have a size advantage.

“They’re big. [It’s going to be like] David and Goliath,” Iowa State senior Deonte Burton said. “That’s going to be the game, big and small. They’re a really good team. [They’re] really big. We just have to be tough. Be tough because we’re not as big of a team. We’re a small team compared to them. We just have to bring a lot of toughness.”

Solomon Young — Iowa State’s starting center — is listed at 6 foot 8, and is the tallest active member on the Cyclones’ roster. He’ll likely have to guard Swanigan, Hass and Edwards at some point on Saturday night.

That isn’t much of a concern for him, though.

“I’m up for any challenge,” Young said. “I’ve been guarding big guys all year. This ain’t no different. I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing, pushing them out, [don’t allow] deep catches and rebounding.”

Purdue coach Matt Painter knows he’ll have a height advantage — it’s something he’s had most of the year. However, it’s doesn’t always equal a positive result.

Purdue opened up the NCAA Tournament against Vermont — a team much smaller than the Boilermakers. They held a one-point lead at halftime, and the Catamount kept things close through much of the second half. While Purdue slipped out with an 80-70 win, it was much closer than many fans had expected.

So even though on paper the Boilermakers are bigger than many, Painter knows they still have to be smart if they are going to take advantage of the extra inches.

“If our size is going to help us out rebounding, then it is an advantage,” Painter said. “If it doesn’t, than it’s not. So for us, we have to be able to use our size, but we also have to be able to use our brains.”

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said that it will take time into the game Saturday to see what defense works well to stop Purdue inside, and that it will likely take multiple different defensive looks.

And if they can halt the Boilermakers in the paint, Prohm has a second objective: run.

“We have to get stops. If we can get stops, push the tempo, and make them have to pick up their pace, then we’re going to be at the advantage,” Prohm said. “But that starts with being able to defend the post, that starts with being able to have great ball pressure, that starts with being able to finish plays. If we can finish plays and run, obviously we’re going to be at an advantage.”

Regardless of their scouting reports and strategies to stop the other team, both Prohm and Painter know that they still must focus on themselves. If they slip on that end, they said, their tournament run could be cut short.

“The most important team for Iowa State is Iowa State. The most important team for Purdue is Purdue,” Painter said. “You still have to be able to do what you do best, play to your strengths and not focus as much on them. They’re a good team, and they’ve proven that they have a good offense. They’ve proven that they have a good defense. That’s not going to go away.

“But you have to be able to do some little things and out execute them and out-tough them and get on the glass a little bit. If you can’t do those things against a quality team like that, you’re going to be in trouble.”