AMES — Solomon Young has helped transform the Iowa State men’s basketball front court in the last four games, giving it a physical presence on both ends of the floor. Each game has eliminated a little more doubt about what the freshman forward can bring to the court.
When Iowa State (16-9, 8-5) hosts TCU (17-8, 6-6) on Saturday in Hilton Coliseum (5 p.m. ESPNews), the emergence of Young’s physical presence is going to be put to the test. That’s where the Horned Frogs were able to do most of their damage last time.
“I don’t think (Young) played much (in Fort Worth), I don’t even know if he played,” said point guard Monte Morris. “We watched film and we were still sleeping out there. Our coverages were terrible.
“So I’m sure tomorrow you’ll see a whole different Iowa State basketball team. We’re just excited to get things going. I’m ready to play against those guys because we weren’t there mentally or physically that night.”
Young did play 3 second-half minutes in the Cyclones’ 84-77 loss at TCU last month, but didn’t record any stats. The Horned Frogs dominated the front court, scoring 54 points in the paint while shooting better than 70 percent from two-point range.
TCU’s Vlad Brodziansky, a 6-foot-11 junior, had 25 points while going 10-for-13 inside the arc. Young’s defensive assignment starts there. His ball-screen defense has slowly gotten better, and while his defensive effort will be crucial, there is a lot more that has to go into stopping TCU.
“I think it changes it some, but it still comes down to how do we guard, how does our perimeter defend the ball, ball pressure getting through screens and ball screen defense,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “Solomon will play a big part, I think, in rebounding and defending the rim but ball screen defense is going to be huge.”
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Young will be the primary defender around the bucket, but seniors Merrill Holden and Deonte Burton are likely to draw some of the workload. In watching tape, Young knows there is lot the forwards will have to pay attention to.
“The biggest thing for me to do is stop him from scoring and be aggressive,” Young said. “Just making sure I pay attention to their plays because they have a lot of trick plays like they’ll screen one way but be looking for a guy on the other side.”
Iowa State has strung together consecutive wins for the third time in conference play, but hasn’t won three in a row since Dec. 17 through 30.
The Cyclones have four road wins in Big 12 play, but have two home losses — to top-10 teams Kansas and West Virginia — creating some urgency to take care of business in Ames.
Barring a collapse down the stretch, Iowa State isn’t worried about getting into the NCAA tournament. The big-picture objective shifts to seeding, but Prohm and the players have shrunk their focus down to day-to-day objectives with only five regular-season games left.
“I think we’re defending a little bit better, so that helps and we’ve shot it well. Home, I don’t know. It’s funny. Maybe there’s too much pressure at home, I don’t know. You never know the answer (about why you could struggle at home), and I don’t have an answer, but hopefully we play well (Saturday)."