DES MOINES – Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton is still just a puppy, but he’s growing more and more into a dog each game.
The freshman sensation scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had two assists on Saturday as Iowa State beat Northern Iowa 76-65 in Wells Fargo Arena.
“He’s persistent,” Iowa State’s Nick Weiler-Babb said. “He missed a couple of shots early but we always tell him to stay confident. He’s one of our best players. Without him, we wouldn’t be who we are now. Just stay confident, he’s got a little dog in him. I won’t say dog, I’ll call him a little puppy. He played well today and came out in the second half with a whole new energy.”
In the first half, Wigginton had just five points. He came alive at the 12:10 mark in the second half.
He scored seven straight points for the Cyclones and 11 of their last 13 in a run that stretched 3 minutes, 50 seconds.
Wigginton finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting after scoring just five points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half.
“He was good today,” ISU Coach Steve Prohm said. “I thought the stretch today, he really took over the game. He really put pressure on them athletically and physically getting into the paint. He was the difference-maker without question in that second half.”
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Iowa State, as a team, shot poorly in the first half. The Cyclones shot just 38 percent and trailed the Panthers 33-30 after the half.
“They were pressuring us out there and pushing us off our spot. Granted, we missed a bunch of open shots in the first half,” Weiler-Babb said. “For the most part, they were pressuring us and getting us out of our comfort zone.”
Iowa State has been a second-half team this year, out-scoring its last five opponents 238-157 in the second half.
“I think it’s more about execution, effort and focus than it is about, in a three-minute window, making a bunch of changes,” Prohm said. “It’s more about reiterating what we’ve talked about all week. The pace of play, both teams didn’t shoot it well in the first half. I thought we had good looks. It’s more about refocusing than it is about making a million changes. And then we got an offensive spurt, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Cyclones made the second-half adjustments and refocused against their toughest opponent of the season. The Cyclones outscored the Panthers 46-32 in the final 20 minutes Saturday.
No matter which way a person looks at it, this is Iowa State’s best win of the season.
“It’s our best win because it’s today,” Prohm said. “But if you want to go by the numbers, it’s [also] our best win. This is one at the end of the year, if you continue to get better and do good things, you look back and say it was a very, very good win.”
Iowa State has come a long way from losing to Missouri and Milwaukee to open the season, winning eight straight games since then.
Wigginton emerged as Iowa State’s best offensive player, Weiler-Babb has been the distributor Prohm wanted at the beginning of the season and Cam Lard has established himself as a low-post threat.
Lard shot 5-for-6 from the field, scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Prohm likes where his team is at, but knows it can do more.
“What’s our ceiling and where do you really want to go?” Prohm said.
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