On multiple occasions this year, I’ve watched Iowa State outplay another team for 30, 35, even 39 minutes, yet come away with a loss.
The problem is Iowa State’s tendency to go cold for extended periods of time.
Shots stop falling. Passes aren’t as crisp. The wrong players take shots at the wrong times, and Iowa State gives up a big run. We’ve seen it happen several times this season.
Against Kansas on Jan. 21, Iowa State led Kansas by as much as eight points in the second half. According to KenPom, the Cyclones had a 69.7 percent chance of winning with 16:21 to play.
Then, Iowa State’s 53-47 lead became a 61-53 deficit.
How can coach Steve Prohm and co. fix it? It starts with the Cyclones’ best scorers getting the ball more.
Let’s look at the Iowa State – Kansas State game from Jan. 12. Iowa State lost, 58-57, but held a 55-48 lead with five minutes to go.
The defense down the stretch wasn’t great, but Iowa State scored just two points in the final five minutes of a close game. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Iowa State had seven possessions in the final four minutes. Those possessions resulted in one made field goal on four attempts, two empty trips to the free throw line and one turnover.
Iowa State got one shot for redshirt senior Marial Shayok during that stretch. Freshman forward George Conditt IV made a layup off an assist from sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton, and redshirt senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb missed a pair of 3-pointers.
Shayok didn’t have his best game against Kansas State. He finished with nine points on 4-of-9 shooting in 38 minutes. Still, Shayok entered that game having reached double figures in every game in his Cyclone career. It’s still the only game he’s played at Iowa State without reaching 10 points.
It’s hard to excuse Shayok only getting one shot during the final stretch. He had the ball more times than that, but the shots ultimately ended up coming for others.
Iowa State has struggled with an offensive identity at times this year because of that very reason. There are plenty of talented scorers — four players have scored 20 or more points in a game this season, and two others (Weiler-Babb and redshirt sophomore forward Cameron Lard) accomplished that feat last season.
But for Iowa State to reach its full potential, the Cyclones need to figure out their go-to scorer.
The smart money is on Shayok. He’s been, without question, the most consistent scorer this season. He can get to the rim, he can shoot off the bounce and he’s a 37.7 percent 3-point shooter.
The other option is Wigginton, who averaged over 16 points per game a season ago and is perhaps the best athlete on the team. He’s a 36.1 percent 3-point shooter.
It could be a combination of both Shayok and Wigginton, too. The problem is when opponents mount a comeback and the Cyclones act as if nothing has changed, running similar sets and letting shots be taken by whoever has the ball.
When Kansas tied the game at 53-all, Allen Fieldhouse exploded.
Iowa State’s ensuing possession included two passes. Shayok was in the game but never touched the ball.
Those situations can’t happen. The alarms need to go off before the lead is completely gone, and some kind of play — even something as simple as a pick-and-roll or an isolation at the top of the key — needs to be set up for Shayok.
There’s still plenty of basketball to be played this season, but Iowa State’s postseason run could hinge upon its ability to keep those cold streaks away.
Source: Iowa State Daily