AMES — This season hasn’t gone how Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm wanted nor expected with Iowa State squarley out of the NCAA Tournament picture at 11-14 with a 4-8 Big 12 record. On top of that, Tyrese Haliburton is out for the season with a broken wrist.
But Prohm is still finding goals for his team to try to achieve.
Iowa State’s current goal is to finish in the top six of the league and thus stay out of the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.
The Cyclones are tied with Texas for the seventh spot right now, one game behind TCU.
Iowa State, coming off its biggest conference win of the season against Texas, travels to Lawrence, Kan., to play No. 3 Kansas (22-3, 11-1) at 8 p.m. Monday (ESPN).
“Texas was one game and now we have to go to Kansas and that’s going to be a challenge,” Prohm said. “But like I told our guys, the last four years we’ve been up there, it’s come down to the last two minutes. We have to do everything we can to put ourselves in that same position.”
Iowa State has found success when it has pounded the ball inside to Solomon Young and let him establish a dominant post presence.
But Kansas has one of the best big men in college basketball in Udoka Azubuike, so it could be difficult to get anything going inside against the 7-footer.
The Cyclones may need to rely on their guard play more than they want to on Monday with Haliburton out because of Azubuike but senior Prentiss Nixon believes anyone can step up when called upon.
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“If we step out there every game like we did (on Saturday), I like our chances going forward,” Nixon said. “On any given night it can be anybody. (Saturday) it happened to be the upperclassmen and the next game it might be the freshmen. As long as everybody does their part as a collective unit, we’ll be fine.”
Iowa State has five regular-season games left after Kansas — including games against Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the two worst teams in the Big 12, and one against TCU.
“It’s kind of a jumble right now in the middle of the league,” ISU’s Michael Jacobson said. “We’re fighting to try and stay out of that first-day game in Kansas City and give ourselves a chance when we get down there. We want to make a run and stack some wins.”
Prohm has allowed himself to have a glimmer of hope of still making a good run in Kansas City and stealing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“If we can win some games coming down the stretch, hopefully we’ll end in the top six,” Prohm said. “I do talk to them about the standings and being in the top six because then you stay out of the play-in game and if you’re trying to win a conference tournament, that helps.”
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