AMES — Unblemished records will always have favorable perception — rightfully so — on paper, but No. 2 Iowa State hasn’t had the smoothest ride to its 9-0 start.
Sure, the Cyclones went 3-0 last week against Buffalo, Iowa and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but looking at the way they survived last week there could be red flags for a team ranked in the top-five in both major polls. But that’s not how the team is seeing it.
Three words mattered more than any other when the issue was raised: just keep winning.
“We haven’t been perfect for 40 minutes yet, but that’s a positive in my mind because we’re still figuring out ways to win,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said on the Big 12 teleconference. “It’s still early and we want to continue to get better in January, February and March.”
“I just think we’ve learned a lot throughout this whole year and mainly it comes back to how are we going to respond when teams are scoring on us,” said senior Georges Niang. “Are we going to have the willingness to stop them? Because we can score with anybody.”
Iowa State started the week by beating Buffalo by 21, but coming from 20 points down against Iowa and outlasting Arkansas-Pine Bluff despite 13 turnovers — without Naz Mitrou-Long — are attention-grabbers.
All three games were at Hilton Coliseum, but the Cyclones have only one more home game — Coppin State on Dec. 30 — before Big 12 play begins at No. 3 Oklahoma. Iowa State currently has three top-30 RPI wins — Colorado (No. 11), Iowa (No. 24) and Chattanooga (No. 27) — but the schedule will intensify beginning with Northern Iowa on Saturday.
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“He’s just a freak of nature I think is the best way to put it,” Niang said. “Unbelievable person too, so I’m really excited to grow with him as my teammate for the rest of the season.”
Prohm said Burton will be slowly integrated into the first-team rotation with the other seven pieces after playing on the scout team since the offseason. What Burton provides is another piece for the Cyclones to run in transition, but his attention to detail will be a big part of his adjustment in the rotation.
“(The scout team) kind of freelances at times and so the biggest thing we’ve got to do with Deonte now is get him into structure and make sure he knows what we’re doing,” Prohm said. “But he did a great job competing and pushing (the first team).”
Burton averaged 6.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in one semester as a sophomore with the Golden Eagles, but said his focus in the last year and a half in Ames has been devoted to developing his outside shot. He’s tried to not place too many expectations on himself, but his one team expectation falls in line with the rest of the team: just keep winning.
“Just be an energy guy and a person that does the little things,” Burton said. “Just whatever the team needs me to do to be that piece where I can be versatile enough to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
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