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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES - Iowa State wing Talen Horton-Tucker has dealt with his fair share of ups and downs in his freshman campaign.
In his first six games of the season, he had two 26-point outings and two in which he scored fewer than six points
His scoring steadied as the Cyclones made their way through nonconference play but once the Big 12 season hit, Horton-Tucker hit a prolonged cold streak. He didn't score in double figures for the first six conference games while shooting below 30 percent from the field.
No. 20 Iowa State (15-5, 4-3 Big 12) hosts West Virginia (9-11, 1-6) at 6 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU) and Horton-Tucker appears to have finally hit his stride once again in conference play.
Against Kansas last Monday, Horton-Tucker scored 16 points while shooting 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Saturday at Ole Miss - not a Big 12 team but a ranked team at the time - the Chicago native dropped 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
'Shots started going in,” Horton-Tucker said. 'Against Kansas, the first few shots went in and my confidence came back.”
Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm hopes Horton-Tucker is able to continue his steady play as conference play progresses.
'I thought he had his best practice before we left to go to Ole Miss,” Prohm said. 'Did that lead into him playing well? I don't know, but I thought he was really dialed in and focused.
'I think he's had a good freshman year. Has he had some up and down games? Yeah. But that's part of it when you play two games a week - they're not all going to be perfect.”
West Virginia doesn't press as much as it has in other seasons under Bob Huggins, but the Mountaineers still play physical defense and try to get into passing lanes as much as possible.
Having a fourth ball-handler on the court like Horton-Tucker will be beneficial for Iowa State.
Even through the ups and downs this season, Horton-Tucker's teammates never lost faith in the talented freshman.
'The game is starting to slow down for him, same as me,” fellow freshman Tyrese Haliburton said. 'The game was so sped up when we got here. He didn't start Big 12 the way he wanted to, but he's getting into his groove and you're seeing what he can do when he's in his groove.”
Horton-Tucker has the ability to score in a variety of ways. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he's able to knock down 3-pointers, take defenders off the dribble and drive to the basket and he has a steady mid-range game when he's feeling himself.
But maybe the most valuable trait he possesses is his passing ability. When he's hot and defenders are forced to focus on him, he's able to find the open man.
Horton-Tucker averages three assists per game. Against Ole Miss, when he scored 23 points, he also had five assists.
'Him knocking down shots helps a lot just because it's another scorer for us,” Haliburton said. 'That makes people collapse on him and that leaves other scorers open so we can get good shots.”
While he's playing well now, Prohm still has some areas he wants Horton-Tucker to work on.
'Does he need to continue to improve on the defensive end? Yes,” Prohm said. 'Does he need to improve shot selection? Yes. Is he a high-level offensive skill player that can do a lot of things? No doubt about it.”
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