AMES – It felt like it was supposed to happen.
Iowa State (11-7, 2-5 Big 12) wasn’t expected to beat No. 8 Texas Tech (15-4, 4-3) on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Especially after the 23-point drubbing Iowa State took at the hands of No. 25 TCU on Wednesday.
But after the game, when Iowa State beat Texas Tech 70-52, it felt like it was supposed to happen. Even with the 18-point margin of victory, which is the largest margin ever over an AP top-10 team in Iowa State history.
When Coach Steve Prohm, point guard Nick Weiler-Babb and forward Cameron Lard met with the media, they all were even keeled. They all acted like they expected it to happen. They weren’t celebrating or beating their chests. After all, Iowa State is 20-7 against ranked teams in the last seven years at home.
But this is a young, inexperienced team. It wasn’t expected, but they acted like it was.
“You can’t get too low on losses and you can’t get too high on wins,” Weiler-Babb said. “We didn’t play very well at TCU and we were upset and mad about that for one that day. But the next day, we had to get back in the gym and grind. After a win like this, you have to get back in the gym and get ready to watch film. We have another great team coming up.”
It starts with Prohm. This is almost a completely new team and he’s still learning how he needs to coach them.
After the TCU game, he held a team meeting. He said a lot of coaches would’ve ranted and raved after a beatdown like the one the Cyclones got at TCU.
That isn’t Prohm’s style.
“It was to let them understand what this thing is really about, and at the core, your foundation has to be really good,” Prohm said. “That’s what we’re really trying to reestablish because that’s an every-day teaching assignment for us.
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“I really let them know, at the end of the day, we have to play for each other, and the most special teams I’ve been around, it’s been about investment. I’m invested in them, I’ll do anything these guys need from me. And I want them invested in me likewise.”
Iowa State showed that on Saturday. The Cyclones held a nine-point lead at halftime. But in just 3:30, Texas Tech had a one-point lead, 35-34.
The Cyclones had an opportunity to fold, but Prohm called a timeout and got his guys reengaged.
“It’s a different team, it’s a youthful team to where there is time and score situations that we have to do a great job with,” Prohm said. “But there are also moments where it can flip, and not yell and scream, but just to reestablish, ‘hey guys, they have 29 points and 15 are off second-chance. We’re doing a great job in half-court defense, can you be great in transition and can you box out and make toughness plays?’ We get down 35-34 and then we took the lead 36-35 and I don’t know if we looked back from there. We had to do that, we needed to get those guys right.”
It’s often said that basketball is a game of runs and Weiler-Babb said you have to expect runs, especially in a conference as potent as the Big 12 and especially against the No. 8 team in the country.
“We just had to take that punch and take that hit and throw it right back at them,” Weiler-Babb said.
Iowa State built its lead to 21 points after Texas Tech’s surge to open the second half.
“We fought and we clawed,” Weiler-Babb said. “They came in here, and we know they play physical, so we matched that. Coming in here and getting a win like this is something we talked about and I know Coach is proud of us for that.”
They talked about winning this game and they acted like it was supposed to happen. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more growing pains along the way. The Cyclones are still very young.
Even in their youth, Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard said Iowa State’s starting five is “the best starting five in the Big 12.”
They just need to find that consistency Prohm always talks about.
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“We really challenged them on where we’re at, where we want to be and how we want to grow,” Prohm said. “The difference, at the end of the day, was not making or missing shots – I was proud of how they competed. We have a good group, we just have to keep getting better and see where we’re at when the season ends.
“We all have to max-out our roles for this year’s team to be great. And we can be.”
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