AMES, Ia. — Maybe it was the new starting lineup. Maybe it was Tyrese Haliburton’s buzzer-beating basket just inside the half-court line. Good defense that forced a whopping 15 turnovers against one of the best ball-handling clubs in the Big 12?
All will go down as reasons for Iowa State’s rousing 81-68 victory against Oklahoma — a success that was so much needed, for a team that faces a pair of ranked opponents on the road next week.
“Hopefully gives the guys a little more pep in their step,” coach Steve Prohm said.
Not only was the Cyclones’ eighth overall win the first in the conference, but it was the ninth-in-a-row against Lon Kruger’s team at Hilton Coliseum, and speaking of …
Iowa State fans at the game finally had a reason to cheer, an opportunity that has been rare, considering the Cyclones came into this one with three home losses out of the past four games.
“It was a game we knew we had to have,” Prohm continued. “We do have a phenomenal, phenomenal fan base. Obviously, we’re struggling, but Saturday night and it’s sold out again.
“That speaks volumes about the people that we have supporting us.”
Yeah, winning Saturday night was a necessity, considering what’s coming up next — Wednesday at Baylor, which will likely move up from No. 4 after Saturday’s 67-55 win at No. 3 Kansas. Saturday, it’s at 21st-ranked Texas Tech.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going into those games,” said freshman Tre Jackson, who made four of his five 3-point attempts.
A loss against the Sooners, and Steve Prohm’s team could have been starring at 0-5 in the Big 12.
“They played like a team that needed to play well, and we didn’t have answer for it,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They played well. They attacked us. They made good plays for each other.”
Oh-and-five won’t happen, thanks to solid play from each of the lineups Prohm used. After telling reporters Friday that this would be a “huge personnel game for us,” he went deep into his rotation right from the start; nine played during the game’s first eight minutes.
“I wanted to give the bench a chance — to see if they could play and provide us a spark, and they did,” Prohm said. “Whoever’s producing, we’ve got to roll with them. We’ve got to trust these guys a little more.”
They played, all right, and this included little-used players like Terrence Lewis. He was very good before a pack Hilton crowd, both offensively, and the junior had some solid minutes on the other end of the floor, too.
Jackson (12 points) was superb, too, especially from long-range. He’s the one that went directly to Hilton, to shoot balls, immediately after the team landed after last week’s loss at TCU.
George Conditt started for Solomon Young against a team that mostly plays four perimeter players. That lineup got an early lead, but the five that worked best during a first half Iowa State led 42-25 went like this:
Lewis, Young, Haliburton, Zion Griffin and freshman Jackson. The ball moved swiftly from side-to-side. Everyone hustled. They played defense so well, that Oklahoma went scoreless for 3 ½ minutes.
Prohm did it to “give guys smaller stretches of playing time, and keep us more physically and mentally into the game, he said. “We have to play with a great pace on offense.”
They did that, too, fast-breaking the daylights out of the Sooners to the tune of 15-0.
On this night against the 11-4 Sooners, every lineup Prohm played did something positive.
A while later, it was Haliburton, Jackson, Rasir Bolton (23 points), Lewis and Conditt. And then came Haliburton’s buzzer-beater, the clincher of a 12-zip half-ending barrage of points.
Haliburton, by the way, did more than make the basket from the logo. He added 15 points, right assists and five rebounds.
“He’s fantastic,” Kruger said. “He’s a guy that makes the right basketball plays, all the time. He makes guys around him better, and he’s very skilled, himself.”
Simply put, Iowa State played tough Saturday night – so tough, that Oklahoma didn’t get an offense rebound during the first half, and had just three for the game. Oklahoma’s 25 points in the first half, was the third-fewest by an Iowa State opponent during the first 20 minutes of a game this season.
Yeah, it was that kind of night for a team that desperately needed it.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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