Iowa State stumbles early, recovers in UAPB win

Matt Thomas reacts after taking a shot from behind the arc on Thursday.

Ryan Young

Fresh off of a two-point win against Iowa on Thursday, the Cyclones were hoping for an easier time out Sunday afternoon.

No. 4 Iowa State (9-0, 0-0 Big 12) hosted a struggling Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-8, 0-0 SWAC) team — which has one of the toughest schedules in college basketball. So far this season, the Golden Lions have traveled to take on Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Hawaii and Virginia Tech, to name a few. In fact, they don’t have a home game until Jan. 16.

And while the Cyclones eventually cruised to a 78-64 win over the Golden Lions, it wasn’t pretty.

“I didn’t think this game was going to be perfect today,” said head coach Steve Prohm. “I didn’t think it would be 78-64 to be honest.”

Iowa State committed nine turnovers in the first half, many of which came simply from poor passing.

“We just didn’t come out with any type of effort,” said Matt Thomas. “Obviously we had a big win on Thursday night, but that’s no excuse. We paid no attention to detail … but like coach said, we won the day. We just have to move on from here.”

They went into halftime with just a nine-point lead, up 39-30. The second half continued to be much of the same, with the Cyclones slowly boosting their lead. They weren’t able to completely put the Golden Bears away, however.

“These guys are playing great, it just wasn’t very good today,” Prohm said. “You never devalue winning, man. We won today. We won the game. We’ll learn from it.”

It wasn’t the Iowa State offense that struggled on Sunday. As a team, the Cyclones went 27-of-55 from the field, and shot 50 percent from behind the arc. They made 12-of-14 from the free-throw line, and had 23 total assists on the night.

Jameel McKay led the way for the Cyclones with 18 points and eight rebounds. Thomas was close behind, dropping 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Thomas went 5-of-8 from behind the three-point line, too. When pairing his performance Sunday with the game against Iowa last week, Thomas is 11-of-17 from behind the arc.

It was the defense, though, where the Cyclones repeatedly stumbled. Several times, the Golden Lions blew by the Cyclones and had plenty of easy layups and dunks throughout the game, leading them to shooting 46 percent from the field.

Arkansas Pine Bluff also had 10 steals on the night, and outrebounded the Cyclones 36-29. In fact, Arkansas Pine Bluff’s 64 points is the second highest point total the team has had all season.

“Our attention to detail defensively just wasn’t very good,” Prohm said. “We either gambled and gave up shots, or we gambled and got back cut. Those were our two biggest key points.”

But here’s the good news. Iowa State has six full days to recover before they take the court again against Northern Iowa in the Big 4 Classic. Naz Mitrou-Long is expected to be back to full health, and the Cyclones will get to implement Deonte Burton into the lineup, who was forced to sit out per NCAA transfer rules.

And even though it wasn’t how they had planned, the Cyclones walked out of Hilton Coliseum victorious Sunday night — and they say that’s all that matters.

“We didn’t really play well today,” McKay said. “We lacked energy, for whatever reason. But a win is a win. You can’t really get mad at a win.”