The move from wing player to point guard continues to pay off for the Cyclones.
Randy Peterson/The Register
AMES, Ia. —That Nick Weiler-Babb move from playing off the ball to point guard looks more genius with every possession, every play and every assist.
The junior has four games in a row with 10 assists or more — when no one in school history even strung together three. He has an eye-popping 42 assists over the past four games. He’s averaged 9.5 assists since switching positions six games ago, and — more importantly — the Cyclones have a six-game winning streak since Weiler-Babb became the team’s primary offensive ringleader.
“I told you not to sleep on Nick Babb,” former teammate Naz Mitrou-Long reminded me while watching the Cyclones beat Iowa at Hilton Coliseum last Thursday.
The Weiler-Babb trend continues at 5 p.m. Sunday against Alcorn State in Ames, and the way Donovan Jackson and Lindell Wigginton are shooting it, a fifth consecutive double-digit assist game is inevitable.
Combined, Jackson and Wigginton have made 48.1 percent of their shots, including 45.5 from three-point range since The Big Switch. They’re averaging a combined 19.4 points.
It’s a good start in finding the identity for which this team has been searching since the start of this season.
“We got a little glimpse of what we can do when we do things right,” Weiler-Babb said after the Iowa game.
That’s why games like Sunday’s are important. At 2-7, Alcorn State doesn’t appear a threat to end the Cyclones’ winning streak. If you suddenly had a mental vision of that November home debacle against Milwaukee — forget it.
Weiler-Babb’s move came after that game.
Sunday is an opportunity for younger players like Wigginton, like Cameron Lard, and like Terrence Lewis to gain more confidence. It’s a chance for everyone to improve their games.
It’s also the definition of that cliché trap game everyone talks about. It’s three days after beating Iowa, and five days before facing Northern Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We have to handle this the right way,” Prohm said after the Iowa game. “We have to have great humility.”
This team isn’t good enough to walk on the court, knowing it’s going to win. This team is still learning, and furthermore, you’re not going to win many Big 12 games by giving up 20 offensive rebounds — like the Cyclones did against the Hawkeyes.
“That’s got to change,” Prohm said.
Iowa State has offset that deficiency in the past by averaging 80-plus points a game, which leads to something else since Weiler-Babb started playing the point.
After that move, the Cyclones have averaged 84.5 points. They’ve averaged 89.0 points the past two games.
“Nick’s the reason for that,” Wigginton said. “He’s making good reads. He’s giving up (his own) open shots.”
He’s passing up his shots in favor of getting the ball to Wigginton and Jackson for open three-pointers in the corner. That’s the definition of an unselfish point guard.
I know that facing the likes of Boise State, Iowa, Northern Iowa and others on Iowa State’s pre-conference schedule isn’t like playing against Kansas, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor of the Big 12.
This non-conference blend is giving young players an opportunity to learn the college game while gaining confidence. It’s allowing Weiler-Babb to learn the point guard position Monte Morris played so well.
He’s savvy. At 6-foot-5, he’s tough to guard. He’s giving Wigginton an opportunity to show that he’s better than advertised. His standout play has allowed Jackson to validate Prohm’s claim that he’s one of the best shooters around, and Weiler-Babb?
Possession by possession, he too is improving.
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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