AMES – Lindell Wigginton was billed as a game-changer coming out of high school, and while he hadn’t disappointed to this point, Monday’s game against Northern Illinois at Hilton Coliseum served as the Iowa State freshman’s coming out party.
He scored 13 points in the first half on 3-of-6 shooting, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
He took over in the second half. He scored 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the half. His shooting effectively put Northern Illinois (5-4) away. Iowa State (5-2) won 94-80 behind Wigginton’s 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The 28 points are tied with Ron Harris for the fifth-highest from a freshman in Iowa State history. This is Wigginton’s second straight 20-point game, the first Iowa State freshman to do it since Curtis Stinson in 2004.
“I want him to be a complete player – points, rebounds, assists – he can do all of that,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “My biggest thing with him is you just have to coach him hard and you have to get him back in there. I’ve been watching tape with him after each game in my office, and we’ll keep doing that. He’s a talented kid that can really score. I want him playing loose and free, but I also want him fundamentally sound and disciplined. If he can do that and continue to get better, he has a chance to become a very good player.”
The turning point in the game came when Wigginton connected on an and-1 3-pointer at the 13:44 mark. He missed the free throw, but Hilton erupted when he hit the 3-pointer and the Cyclones carried that momentum through the finish line.
“[I credit] my teammates, they were finding me in the right spots,” Wigginton said of his impressive performance. “Also, my coaches, they keep me confident out there every game, even if I have a bad game. They keep me going, they know what I can do.”
Wigginton’s hot shooting carried over to the rest of the team in the second half. Iowa State shot 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range in the second half, scoring 58 points in the second half.
That came after a slow start in the first half for the Cyclones. Iowa State was coming off a nine-day layoff from its previous game. The Cyclones started just 3-for-12 from the floor.
Iowa State still trailed Northern Illinois 38-36 at the end of the first half, allowing the Huskies to get whatever they wanted.
“In the first half, we didn’t show a lot of intensity – on the offensive end or the defensive end,” Wigginton said. “Coach told us in the locker room that we had to be more intense and play more defense and go at it on offense.”
In the second half, Donovan Jackson found his rhythm and scored 19 points; he had 24 points in the game to complement Wigginton’s 28. Jackson hit a career-high six 3-pointers, including a number in transition. The wing duo combined for 34 second-half points to carry the Cyclones.
“I have to get myself going,” Jackson said. “I think in order for us to be a really good program, I have to max out at my role. Lindell is doing a great job and Nick Weiler-Babb is doing a wonderful job, so everybody has to keep maxing out their role.”
Weiler-Babb set up many of their open looks. He had 11 assists and only two turnovers to go along with an efficient 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
“The ball went up the side of the floor really quick,” Prohm said. “Nick didn’t dribble it up, he kicked it up the floor and Donovan was able to get a couple looks and Cameron (Lard) was able to get a couple of rolls in the middle of the floor in our middle pick and roll. Our pace was a lot better and we made the extra pass.”
Iowa State is on a five-game winning streak and Iowa State’s “Big 3” seems to have found itself.
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“It was good to see (Lindell), Nick and Donovan having fun together in the second half and encouraging one another,” Prohm said. “We have a long way to go, but we’ve made some strides.”
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