Nick Weiler-Babb talks about Iowa State’s struggles during a loss to Kansas State Tommy Birch, firstname.lastname@example.org
AMES, Ia. — I hung around to watch the Iowa State-Texas women’s basketball game Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum. Not only was it a good chance to see Bill Fennelly’s very good team dang near pull off the upset, but it also was an opportunity to listen to what fans were saying about the men’s game.
You know the one — the Kansas State game which the Cyclones lost 58-57 because of a second head-scratching ending in a row.
The predominant questions went something like this:
What happened to the Iowa State that had beat Kansas just a week ago? What happened to the team that made 9 of 13 of its second-half three-point shots in that victory against the Jayhawks? Where’d the mojo go?
Which team is this, the one that beat Kansas — or the one that lost at home to Kansas State after leading by five points until Dean Wade made a layup with 2 minutes and 10 seconds to go?
It’s probably somewhere in the middle.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm following his team’s loss to Kansas State. Tommy Birch, email@example.com
I heard grousing about the refs as Bridget Carleton was enjoying a 14-point second half. Why was the out-of-bounds call that preceded Wade’s layup changed from Iowa State’s ball to Kansas State’s?
I watched the replay. It was close. There were a lot of hands around the ball. The ref under the basket ruled for the Cyclones with 2:22 remaining and the Cyclones leading by five. The ref on the perimeter, Joe DeRosa (he’s worked multiple NCAA Tournament championship games), overturned the call.
“We don’t even think it should have come down to that,” Babb said. “We let a lot of things slip at the end, defensively.”
And, offensively, where Iowa State missed three shots in the last 1:42, including two in the final 41 seconds? To compound matters, Lindell Wigginton missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with 15 seconds to play and the Cyclones leading by a point.
Iowa State’s frustrating finish against Baylor last Tuesday — after leading 66-64 with 3:03 to play — included a disputed held-ball rebound that favored the Bears and the Cyclones missing four of their final five shots.
“We can’t let off the gas at the end of the game,” Babb said.
Wigginton still hasn’t returned to his freshman groove after missing 10 games while rehabbing a strained muscle in his foot. In his five games since returning, he’s averaging 11.5 points, and his 33.3 percent shooting includes 6 of 24 from three-point range.
Soft-tissue injuries don’t heal quickly. Kansas State star Dean Wade (34 points the last time he played at Hilton) went through the same thing. He returned to the lineup for the first time Saturday after missing six games — and he responded with two points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes.
“It’s not like riding a bike, where you can just jump on it and ride it,” Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. “You can just see with Wigginton — it’s the same thing. He just doesn’t have quite … I thought he had a little more pop (Saturday), but he just doesn’t have quite the rhythm. That’ll take Dean a little time, too.”
Maybe when he’s got his rhythm back, he doesn’t miss the long and off-balance shot he took with a couple seconds remaining Saturday and with Tyrese Haliburton standing by himself on the perimeter.
Maybe it happens for Wigginton at eighth-ranked Big 12-leading Texas Tech on Wednesday — and in case you didn’t notice, four of five conference winners Saturday did so on the road.
“It’s a must-win game for us,” Babb said. “Nobody wants to lose three in a row. I know it’s a tough place to play on the road, but I think we have to go in there with extreme focus and a will to win.”
So keep this in mind while moaning late-game collapses:
With 14 Big 12 games remaining, there’s still time for a bunch of good stuff to happen.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.