By Alex Crowl
Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State Cyclone basketball team are off to an 11-2 start including a 63-61 victory over Oklahoma State to open up Big 12 play. The Cyclones head to Morgantown, W. Va. for their next game to face preseason Big 12 player of the year Juwan Staten and the 14-1 West Virginia Mountaineers. The Cyclones struggled mightily last season in Morgantown losing 102-77, while shooting just 4-23 from 3-point range and 37 percent from the field.
A frustrating 64-60 loss at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. last Saturday against an up and coming South Carolina team started a skid for ISU. The offense has been especially dull for a Cyclone team full of offensive firepower. This loss included a 1-18 effort from behind the three-point line, while also shooting an uncharacteristic 57 percent from the free throw line. Had the Cyclones not closed out the Cowboys to open up the Big 12 they could have been looking at three losses in a row, and potentially more with a trip to Baylor and Kansas coming to town next week. Is there something to the funk for the ‘Clones or is it merely just a difficult stretch of the schedule?
In a loss to South Carolina and a close defeat of Oklahoma State, the Cyclones have looked sluggish offensively shooting less than 40 percent through the past two games.. Including Maryland in the conversation, Iowa State has lost to the Terrapins and the Gamecocks as well as this recent bit your lip performance against the Cowboys.In those three games ISU was barely shooting above 40 percent. Iowa State has not performed well against teams will great defenses and power in the frontcourt. Other than an incredible performance at home against Arkansas, ISU has not performed well against these style of teams or at neutral sites this season. Iowa State will not be a force to reckoned with if they cannot withstand teams with impressive defenses that allow few points to their opponents. Iowa State has averaged over 80 points a game this entire season. ISU scored 63 points against an OSU team allowing 58.3 points per game, 60 points against a USC team allowing 57.9 points per game, and 63 points against a Maryland team allowing 57 points per game.
Most concerning of all are the struggles of Georges Niang and Bryce Dejean-Jones. The Cyclones’ top scorers have combined to shoot 7-19 from the field against OSU and 4-18 from the field against USC. Their struggles from behind the three-point arc have been even worse, as they have combined to shoot just 1-15. If the Cyclones hope to climb out of the hole offensively, they will need their two stars to return to their form from earlier this season.
The recent offensive struggles for the Cyclones are what comes with the ebb and flow of a season. Clearly the 8-39 in the past two games from three is not what will continue moving forward for ISU. Certainly, nobody expects this team to fire on all cylinders every time it takes the court. That would be an extremely unrealistic expectation. Not being undefeated entering Big 12 play could very well be beneficial for ISU. This team can figure out its issues early and make adjustments as the schedule becomes as strong as any in the country.
A little bit of a funk offensively, some strong defensive teams with powerful frontcourts, and the strength of schedule have starred at the Cyclones in the mirror. West Virginia is another team with a strong defense allowing only 61.2 points per game. This will be yet another test for the Cyclones against a strong defense. They look to crawl out of the microscopically concerning rough patch Saturday in Morgantown against the West Virginia Mountaineers at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.