Iowa State knows its upcoming game against the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks is different than most games.
Still, the Cyclones (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) are preparing for Kansas (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) like any other opponent. At least, they’re trying to.
“I feel like we just have to go into it thinking it’s a regular game,” said redshirt senior Nick Weiler-Babb, one of two players on Iowa State’s roster who has beat Kansas before. “You gotta let the hype get out and once the hype settles down, the adrenaline wears out, it’s just gonna be skill and who’s the tougher team.”
Weiler-Babb and the rest of the veterans on the roster are focusing on keeping the train on the tracks. Iowa State is coming off its first road win of the season against Oklahoma State, giving the Cyclones an edge in the Big 12 where road wins are hard to find.
With the strong start, it could be easy for Iowa State to look ahead. The Cyclones have an odd schedule, playing both Oklahoma State and Kansas twice apiece before the end of January.
“We just need to face them once [Saturday],” said coach Steve Prohm with a smile. “We don’t even have to think about that, and we’ve got Baylor Tuesday. Our focus is just on one game.
“We don’t have to play them twice, we just have to play them once [Saturday] here.”
Still, there’s no denying the hype surrounding the game. It’s why Prohm has talked to his team about hype vs. substance and making sure the team isn’t getting caught up in the former.
“Coaches have been calling it a substance game,” said freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton. “The game is sold out, a lot of people are gonna be here, it’s probably gonna be really loud. But we’ve just got to come in here, perform and play the Iowa State basketball way.”
Iowa State has been solid on the defensive end this season, ranking 39th in the nation in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Kansas will be an entirely new challenge, however.
The Jayhawks, led by forward Dedric Lawson (19.1 points per game) and guard Lagerald Vick (15.5 points per game, four games with 25 or more points this season), boast a strong offense that can keep up with any team in the country.
Lawson may be one of the toughest players to guard in the nation. He has a knack for drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, along with an ability to pass that few forwards have. Lawson has three games of five or more assists this season, including a 24-point, 13-rebound and 5-assist game against No. 3 Tennessee.
“He’s versatile,” Weiler-Babb said. “He can bring the ball up, he can shoot it from the outside and he can play inside. I think he’s just a well-rounded player and whatever they need, he can do for them.”
Source: Iowa State Daily