The Cyclone coach called the win over the hot Panthers a big one.
Tommy Birch/The Register
Iowa State is better than I anticipated.
There, I said it.
Maybe 6-4 heading into the final week before the Big 12 invades Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 29 and Jan. 1, but 8-2 and trending?
Heck, throw the still-incomprehensible Milwaukee debacle that happened more than a month ago into the win column, and Steve Prohm’s bunch is 9-1 and maybe bumping the bottom of the Top 25.
Saturday’s 76-65 victory against a good Northern Iowa outfit that can win the Missouri Valley Conference was Iowa State’s best of the season. It was the kind of success that the NCAA Tournament selection committee might look at for separation when considering at-large selections.
“We beat a really good team — a really well-coached team,” Prohm said. “We beat a great opponent that had been playing really well and had some good wins.
“This was great for our team.”
The Panthers’ RPI heading into Saturday’s game in the Hy-Vee Classic was 18, according to ESPN, after solid successes against SMU, North Carolina State, UNLV and Texas-Arlington.
Iowa State players and coaching staff woke up Sunday with a No. 22 RPI — fifth-best among Big 12 teams, and up 16 spots from its previous ranking, according to the realtimerpi.com website.
“This (victory) is one that, at the end of the year, if you can continue to get better and do good things — you look back and say that was a very, very good win,” Prohm said after Saturday’s game.
The Cyclones should be 9-2 after Wednesday’s 6 p.m. Hilton game against a 3-9 Maryland-Eastern Shore outfit that most recently lost by 51 at Creighton.
Then it’s the grinder also known as an 18-game Big 12 Conference schedule that starts Dec. 29 at home against 9-2 Kansas State, and follows up with a Jan. 1 showing at home against 7-3 Texas, a Jan. 6 matchup at 8-2 Oklahoma State, and then a Jan. 9 stop at 8-2 Kansas.
The Big 12 checked in Sunday with the nation’s No. 1 RPI after Saturday’s round of games that included:
Oklahoma over third-ranked Wichita State.
Oklahoma State upsetting No. 19 Florida State in Florida…
And Iowa State’s eighth win in a row since Nick Weiler-Babb became the point guard.
It’s a story that’s been told repeatedly. Nonetheless, it’s still the program’s most defining moment since Prohm and his staff secured Lindell Wigginton’s national letter of intent signature.
“Coming into this season, Coach said I was going to have to be a leader, but this is kind of the extreme of what I thought,” Weiler-Babb said. “It feels good to be in this position.
“Coach put me in this position, and I’m going to do what I have to do to win.”
One move — many positives.
Wigginton is averaging 18.6 points since then, and that includes four 20-point games. The super freshman is shooting 50.9 percent over that period — including 50 percent from three-point range.
Also since Weiler-Babb took over the team, Donovan Jackson is averaging 19.5 points — and he’s made 43.8 percent of his three-point shots.
Weiler-Babb, since becoming the full-time point guard, is averaging 13.1 points and 8.8 assists.
Just about the time you thought the Cyclones would be taking a vacation from hanging out in the past six NCAA Tournaments, Prohm makes a genius position switch that, so far, has worked out.
NCAA Tournament conversation?
Buy or sell?
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at email@example.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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