AMES, Ia .— A brand-new Iowa State starting lineup?
Sounds like it.
Oklahoma coming to town is a perfect time for Steve Prohm to do some tinkering to an Iowa State team that’s lost three in a row, dropped three of its past four home games and is 0-2 in the Big 12 Conference.
It’s never bad to look under the hood when stuff isn’t operating as expected, and if you’ve seen Cyclones basketball lately, maybe a change is due.
“Yeah, there’s a possibility I may change something,” Prohm responded when I asked about that possibility during his Friday media availability before practice.
For Prohm, that’s all but confirmation someone — like George Conditt for 14-game starter Solomon Young? — will start the 7 p.m. game at Hilton Coliseum, instead of sitting while others are announced.
And it might not even stop there.
Freshman Tre Jackson played a lot in last Saturday’s overtime loss at TCU. He played all right, too, mostly defensively. And since Oklahoma starts four players between 6-5 and 6-7 …
Yeah, maybe he starts, and maybe 6-9 Mike Jacobson doesn’t. Or maybe it’s Zion Griffin who starts against the Sooners.
Regardless, something like that appears to be brewing for a team that’s desperately in need of a fix — for an offense that Prohm has said a few times has been stagnant.
The only sure-thing starters are Tyrese Haliburton, Prentiss Nixon and Rasir Bolton. Beyond that?
“I believe whatever lineup he puts together, will go out there and do what they have to do to help the team win,” Jackson said. “If that’s me or anybody else — they have to show that they can help this team win.”
That’s the bottom line for a 7-7 team whose most recent loss was by 26 against third-ranked Kansas last Wednesday at Hilton.
“It’s a huge personnel game for us,” Prohm said of facing the Sooners Saturday. “We’re starting to get used to playing small; we’ll play small at times. We’ll change defenses a lot, trying to keep them off-balance.”
Oklahoma’s 11-3 record includes a five-point win against Kansas State, and a 10-point success at Texas. Forward Kristian Doolittle is the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 at 17.3 points a game. He’s 14-for-26 from 3-point range, while active 6-9 teammate Brady Manek is 29-for-77 from deep.
To win, Iowa State’s new starter(s) must earn their keep more by playing solid defense rather than through long-range shooting.
“We’ve got to play tougher; we’ve got to defend,” Nixon said. “We’re giving up 70 and 80 points a game. We’re not going to win too many games doing that.”
Thus the new lineup — probably.
No one’s being punished. Prohm doesn’t usually change starting fives. But Saturday is different.
If it shakes the team out of its 0-2 Big 12 Conference record funk, then mission accomplished. If it doesn’t, then Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game at fourth-ranked Baylor, and Saturday’s at No. 21 Texas Tech, could be rough going for a team that’s even finding it tough to win at home.
That might be why Haliburton, clearly the leader of this team, showed that before a recent workout.
“Tyrese took some ownership to get some guys together to review our actions and the pace we need to play with, the ball movement we need to have, and the cutting that we need to do,” Prohm said. “Them taking a step to do that on their own — I thought was huge.
“What it shows you is that our character is good, and they have great belief. We have to play better or longer stretches. If that means trying to go deeper on our bench to keep guys fresher, then we’ll do that.”
Morale among the players continues to be good, Prohm said. He seemed in good spirits, too, after going through one of the more daunting nonconference schedules he’s ever faced.
“There’s two or three games you wish you could replay, but you don’t get a chance to do that,” he said. “It’s been as good a nonconference schedule as we’ve played since I’ve been here, but that’s a credit to the success of the program and the former players.
“It’s reality. You have to learn and grow and teach and coach and work. You can’t worry about record. You have just go play. We’ve got to play better defensively.
“We’ve got to play tougher. We’ve got it in us. You don’t beat Seton Hall and shoot under 40 percent from the field and win by double figures, if you don’t have a little bit of grit and toughness in you. We’ve just got to sustain it.”
Of course, better 3-point shooting will help, too.
“If they’re open and they’re good shots — man, I’m encouraging them to shoot it,” Prohm said.
Eventually, those shots might even splash nets — like they used to.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.
Source: Des Moines Register