AMES – Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm likes having an eight-man rotation for his team. He does not like, however, only having eight players at his disposal.
Throughout the season, Prohm has dealt with injuries, players sitting out and players recovering from injuries.
Prohm has had to use eight or fewer players three times in seven games.
In Thursday’s game against Iowa (4-5) in Hilton Coliseum at 7 p.m., Iowa State (5-2) may only have eight players available again.
Zoran Talley is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot and Jakolby Long has been dealing with a concussion the last two games.
“I like playing eight guys, but when you only have eight guys, it’s different,” Prohm said. “Now you have foul trouble. You’re like, ‘Oh man, holy smokes.’ We need to get some guys healthy.”
Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, on the other hand, has a very deep bench. He has no problem stretching it to an 11-player rotation.
While Iowa hasn’t had a lot of success this year at 4-5, Prohm doesn’t look at the record, he looks at the talent on the team and how many players see the court.
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“That’s the first thing I look at, how many people do they play – is it seven, is it nine? Really, it could get to 11 with them, if you wanted to,” Prohm said. “Scouting report is important because our guys have to know personnel, who can shoot, who’s a driver, who are we doubling on, who are we not doubling on. The more players, the more options and the more your players have to think. We really have to be locked into personnel. You can talk about plays, but if you get the personnel down, that’s half the battle.”
Jordan Bohannon, Isiah Moss and Tyler Cook are Iowa’s three most impressive players, Prohm said.
“It’s hard to scout when they play so many guys,” Iowa State point guard Nick Weiler-Babb said. “They got some bigs in there that have been great, they got some shooters as well. It’s going to be a big thing, we have to focus in on scout team and know what we’re going to do with the game plan.”
The Hawkeyes’ deep rotation allows them to throw in some pretty funky lineups, sometimes having three guys 6-foot-9 or taller. Prohm said the Cyclones haven’t seen size like this since the Missouri game in the season opener.
Because of that, Weiler-Babb and Lidell Wigginton might have to guard out of their position and because Iowa State has a short rotation, they have to stay out of foul trouble.
The 6-foot-5 Weiler-Babb has the length and physicality to be able to defend someone taller than him. But guarding someone taller, can take a lot out of a player.
“You have to (expend energy) in any game,” Weiler-Babb said. “(Northern Illinois’ Eugene German) was 6-foot and the fastest guy on the court (on Monday), or you’re guarding someone who’s 7-foot. You always have to try your best on the defensive end no matter who you’re guarding or what team you’re going against.”
Wigginton, on the other hand, is only 6-foot-2, but he can jump out of the gym and is a physical player for his size.
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“I feel like I can hold my own,” Wigginton said. “I don’t really care who I go up against, I’m just going to hold my own. I just have to be aggressive on them and use my athleticism.”
Prohm stressed playing in transition, offensively and defensively. Iowa State needs to get back and get set, so any mismatches Iowa does have, can help be negated with help defense. Offensively, Iowa State’s been at its best when it’s running the floor and pushing the pace.
The pace could be frenetic in the first few minutes, especially considering it’s a rivalry game, and Prohm recognizes that.
“The hype’s good for a couple of minutes, then you better have some substance,” Prohm said. “You better be good in transition, you better guard the ball, you better rebound and you better finish plays – run the floor and make the extra pass. You can’t celebrate after made baskets, you have to get your tail back because Iowa’s going to kick it ahead, like we want to do.
“It’s not a hype thing. I’ve always said substance wins, character wins – all of that stuff. It’s not a pressure thing, it’s just, appreciate the rivalry. It’s a terrific rivalry and Hilton will be electric.”
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