AMES — In 21 days, the Iowa State men’s basketball team will face ninth-ranked Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Not that any of the Cyclones are focused on that. Much.
“It’s going to be a big game, a very big game,” said ISU forward Will Clyburn, who posted 17 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s 86-77 win over Drake. “I’m pretty sure everybody’s excited to take on the challenge of going to Kansas and trying to give them a loss on their court.”
The Cyclones (8-3) plan to hold steadfast to first-things-first mode, though. ISU faces Missouri-Kansas City (4-6) tonight within the venerable walls of Municipal Auditorium — a site the Cyclones last played at 39 years ago.
Road game? Against the Kangaroos?
“You have to be a little bit creative with scheduling,” ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They’ll come back and play us twice at our place. When you have a lot of fans in a certain area, you want to give them a chance to get out and see you play, so we felt that it made sense for a lot of reasons.”
Municipal Auditorium — long ago a venue for top-flight games featuring players such as Wilt Chamberlain and the Cyclones’ Roland Rocket, Gary Thompson — is roughly 45 miles from Allen Fieldhouse.
Twenty-one days away. Two tuneup games in between, beginning today and culminating in the noon New Year’s Day matchup with Yale at Hilton Coliseum.
“(We) definitely need to bring our turnovers down as a team and be more consistent in all aspects,” said ISU forward Melvin Ejim, the Big 12 player of the week after a 21-point, 12-rebound performance against the Bulldogs. “When the Big 12 comes it’s going to be, basically, who can do it day in and day out. It’s going to be a grind, so the most consistent team will be the one that wins most of the time.”
The Cyclones took a step forward on the turnover front by committing just six in the second half against Drake after coughing up 11 before the break. ISU, according to NCAA statistics through Sunday, is tied for 263rd in turnovers with an average of 15.6.
“The turnover problems that we have, we (need to) make sure we try to get those cleaned up before we get into conference play,” said Cyclone point guard Korie Lucious, who had zero turnovers in the second half Saturday. “And make sure we know what we’re doing on all cylinders of the game — knowing what each other’s doing, defensively and offensively.”
Hoiberg said UMKC, which has played a grueling schedule that includes Ohio State and Louisville, exhibits discipline in its sets.
“They run a lot of motion, they’re very crisp,” Hoiberg said. “And they’ve got guys who can shoot the basketball. ... The big thing we need to do is go down there and play with a tremendous amount of energy.”