Takeaways: Iowa State relies on its defense in Tuesday win


Grant Tetmeyer/Iowa State Daily

Rasir Bolton guards a Northern Illinois player during the Cyclones’ win Tuesday night.

Zane Douglas

On Tuesday, Iowa State beat Northern Illinois 70-52 after a dominating second half that included long scoreless droughts for the Huskies.

However, there were concerns for the Cyclones on the offensive side of the ball that could leave some fans worried.

Haliburton is quieted

Not too often is there a poor performance from sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton backed up his solid freshman year season with two stellar games against Mississippi Valley State and Oregon State.

The sophomore notched double digit assists and points in both games while accumulating eight steals en route to being named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

With his name in NBA mock drafts and the spotlight on him, Haliburton took off from the gate with success on both sides of the ball.

On Tuesday, it all vanished.

Haliburton couldn’t buy a bucket against the Huskies as he shot a lackluster 2-9 with only four points to show for it.

The sharpshooter couldn’t get anything going from three-point range either.

Haliburton couldn’t get penetration and was usually tasked with creating for himself, which led him to some ill-advised NBA-range three-pointers. The career 41.4 percent three-point shooter ended his day 0-5 from behind the arc.

Combine this with three turnovers, lower assist and rebound numbers, and it becomes a less-than-standard performance.

Three-point woes

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm knew there would be some initial poor shooting performances from his team.

Prohm made note of it during media day, and after a poor shooting performance in its meeting with Minnesota in a scrimmage, Iowa State’s shooting hopes were set low.

The Cyclones were serviceable in their first two games, but against Northern Illinois they just couldn’t get anything to go from behind the arc.

The Cyclones hit on three of their 25 three-point attempts against the Huskies. Part of the reason for the poor shooting can be credited to their best player — Haliburton — having an off night, but even Rasir Bolton, who led the team in scoring, went 0-6 from three. 

“I bet out of the 25, I bet two-thirds of them were probably pretty good looks,” Prohm said. “We need to be in the high thirties [percent] from three.”

Their lone three-pointer in the first half came from sophomore Zion Griffin and two second-half threes came from freshman Caleb Grill during the Cyclones’ big run.

The starting guards for the Cyclones — Prentiss Nixon, Bolton and Haliburton — combined to go 0-14 from three. 

Defense saves the day

Iowa State’s offense had a ton of concerns on Tuesday, but its defense turned a corner that Prohm was hoping to see.

“Everybody talks offense,” Prohm said. “What lost us the game in Corvallis, [Oregon], was our defense.”

Iowa State allowed only 18 points in the second half after going into the half losing by three. The Huskies had only six points in the first 11 minutes of the half and their second half shooting percentage was 18.2 percent (6-33).

The Cyclones limited the opportunities for Northern Illinois’ Eugene German, who was not afraid to shoot.

German racked up 24 of his team’s 52 points, but it took him 27 shots (8-27) to get there. In the second half he was even less efficient, with only two of his 12 shots falling, leading to only 11 points.

Iowa State sustained constant full-court pressure on the Huskies and German in the second half, and it paid dividends on the scoreboard for the Cyclones.