Takeaways: Defense, three point shooting and Zion Griffin stand out in season opener

Senior guard Prentiss Nixon pushes up the court with junior forward Solomon Young during Iowa State’s 110-74 victory over the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils on Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum.

Matt Belinson

In a 110-74 blowout win to open its season, Iowa State saw plenty of positives from a boost in defensive intensity and the promising start of Zion Griffin, but the Cyclones also struggled from beyond the arc.

First half defense shows out

While the season opener was against Mississippi Valley State, a team ranked as the worst or one of the worst college basketball teams in the country, Iowa State’s defense shut down the Delta Devil’s offense in the first half.

The Cyclones forced the Delta Devils into 17 first half turnovers, including 12 steals. Tyrese Haliburton — a known offensive threat — collected four steals in the first half and Prentiss Nixon had three steals in the first half.

Nixon also took a charge while on defense, leading Iowa State to go on one of many scoring runs.

Head coach Steve Prohm said that whenever Nixon was on the floor early on, he would always be on top of the ball and creating constant pressure on the offense.

Prohm said Nixon showed his ability to clog the lane, get his hands in passing lanes and bring energy on the defensive end. 

In the first half, Iowa State scored 27 points off turnovers. 

Iowa State ended the game forcing 21 turnovers and 15 steals.

Three point shooting struggles

Iowa State is expected to be a team with plenty of offensive options but few go-to scorers, with Haliburton and Rasir Bolton expected to be the two heavy scorers.

In the season opener, three point shooting turned out to be a weakness for the Cyclones, as Prohm mentioned it would be at Media Day.

Iowa State shot 13-35 from the three point range, which was good for a 37.1 percent night from beyond the arc. 

With the defense taking over in the first half, the three point struggles went unfelt. Iowa State shot 5-19 from three in the first half for a poor 26.3 percent.

Bolton shot four three-pointers and only connected on one of them along with Tre Jackson, who shot 3-8 from three.

Haliburton shot very few three pointers, shooting 1-4 from three on the night. 

Iowa State did have limited success from the three point line, with the Cyclones’ leading scorer Michael Jacobson connecting on three of his five three pointers.

“I think it’s just a testament to my work ethic since I’ve gotten here,” Jacobson said. “It’s definitely been a huge focus for me.”

Zion Griffin steps up

After being relegated to the bench for a majority of last season, Zion Griffin stepped into Iowa State’s season opener and impacted the Cyclones in the limited action he saw. 

Griffin had a career-high 11 points on 5-9 shooting. Griffin also pulled down six rebounds and had two steals. 

Griffin will likely see plenty of minutes in Big 12 play with his size and offensive skill set fitting into Prohm’s small-ball lineups on any given night.