Prohm preps for first CyHawk game of career

Senior Jameel McKay dunks during a basketball game against the Buffalo Bulls, Dec. 7 in Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones would go on to win 84-63.

Ryan Young

Two years ago it was the game winner — followed by a simple photo on Twitter.

Last year it was a kiss, directed at the entire Hawkeye student section.

Now, with his final chance to play in the CyHawk game, senior Georges Niang is taking full advantage of “Hate Week.”

“If I only went 2-2 with Iowa, then what’s the point in playing,” Niang said. “Obviously the goal is to go 3-1.”

The fans, Niang said, are different during this week, too.

“They heckle more than other fans,” Niang said. “I think that’s just the biggest thing that gets me riled up.”

No. 4 Iowa State (7-0, 0-0 Big 12) will host Iowa (7-2, 0-0 Big 10) on Thursday night. The anticipation for the intrastate showdown is as high as it’s been in years, too. Students have been camped outside Hilton Coliseum since Monday in hopes for front row seats.

The players are just as excited, too — even the ones who grew up away from the rivalry.

“This is something that a lot of us have been looking forward to,” Niang said. “I feel like a lot of us aren’t even from the state of Iowa, but we definitely feel the rivalry and — I don’t want to say hatred — but dislike for the other school. That’s just what comes with the territory.”

Thursday’s rivalry game will also mark the first in head coach Steve Prohm’s career at Iowa State.

“I’m the new guy in this rivalry, so I’ll just follow their lead,” Prohm joked.

A win by Prohm would mark the best start by a first-year coach in school history — and the third best overall start in school history.

And while he may not be familiar with the rivalry itself, he does understand how big it is.

“Rivalries are great,” Prohm said. “And the one thing that makes up great rivalries is the programs have to be relevant. And I think that both programs are very, very relevant.”

The Hawkeyes, though, will pose an interesting challenge. After losing its exhibition game to Augustana earlier this year, Iowa has rallied back fast. The Hawkeyes have won their last four contests, including wins against Wichita State and Florida State.

Forward Jarrod Uthoff will pose a big threat inside, too. During the past four games, Uthoff has averaged 19.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The redshirt senior is also shooting 50 percent from both the field and from behind the arc.

Niang may spend some time matched up against Uthoff come game time, a matchup that was absent last season. And after watching Uthoff over the past several games, Niang knows how big of a challenge it could be to stop the Hawkeye big man.

“He’s a great player,” Niang said. “He does a lot of good things for their team. He’s on a hot streak right now.”

While Iowa does lead the all-time series, the home team has won eight of the last 10 games. But the Cyclones have won the past two matchups, and Niang knows that Iowa will come out firing.

“I expect them to come in and try to make it a blood bath, to be honest with you,” Niang said. “We beat them the last two years, and then us going into their place [and winning] … I’m sure they’re going to give it their best shot.”

Prohm said they have taken things easy over the past week in an effort to fully recover from Monday’s game and heal any outstanding injuries they have.

He isn’t doing things any differently this week — something Prohm said is important when dealing with big games.

“I love the rivalry games because you want to play in big games,” Prohm said. “That’s what you signed up for. But on the other side is you’ve got to prepare the same way. You don’t prepare any different. It is the next game. Our motto that night will be the same thing. We’re just trying to win the day and go 1-0.”

But it’s not going to be just a normal game. With the game in prime time on national television, and in front of what will likely be a sold-out crowd, Niang knows that it’ll be perhaps the toughest matchup the Cyclones have had all season.

And he expects the atmosphere to live up to the hype.

“It’s going to be like nothing you’ve seen with these first seven games,” Niang said. “It’s going to be a real passionate group. And then, there’s obviously going to be that little section of Hawkeye fans behind their bench trying to get their crew rallied up.

“It’s going to be a super intense environment.”