AMES — No. 21 Iowa State has one of the more talented perimeters in college basketball. Kansas Coach Bill Self said so himself.
But one piece of that perimeter, freshman Talen Horton-Tucker, is still adapting to Big 12 play as Iowa State (12-3, 2-1) prepares to host Kansas State (11-4, 1-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN2).
“I’m just going through freshman things right now,” Horton-Tucker said. “It’ll come around.”
Horton-Tucker had the flu before the Oklahoma State game on Jan. 2 and he was still recovering from the illness during the Kansas game last Saturday.
In those two games, he combined to shoot 2 of 13 from the field and totaled just four points.
In Tuesday’s 73-70 loss at Baylor, Horton-Tucker had a three-minute stretch in the second half where he seemed to find his groove again. He made all three field goal attempts in that period, including two 3-pointers, and finished the game with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
His teammates aren’t worried about his lack of scoring production.
“It’s big for him to see the ball go in a couple of times like at the end of the Baylor game,” fellow freshman Tyrese Haliburton said. “He’s a scorer so he has to see the ball go in a couple of times and get in his groove. Obviously he hasn’t shot the ball the way he wants to lately, but they’ll fall. He’s a scorer. That’s what he does.”
Coach Steve Prohm said while Horton-Tucker hasn’t been an efficient scorer, he impacts other parts of the game.
“The thing about Talen is he can really impact our team and not score because he’s such a facilitator,” Prohm said. “He has nine assists and one turnover (in Big 12 play). The ball’s in his hands a lot, we just have to get him to move it a little bit quicker.
“We’ll do a couple things to get him going downhill a little bit more. But it may not be for him to get shots, it may be for him to create offense because he’s a really good creator for us.”
Turning Horton-Tucker into a creator could be a problem for opponents. Guards Nick Weiler-Babb and Haliburton are born facilitators who look to pass before they look to score. And Lindell Wigginton and Marial Shayok are more than capable of making the right pass when they draw defenders.
Making Horton-Tucker another facilitator should just open up Iowa State’s offense even more.
“Me doing that can help us take it to the next level,” Horton-Tucker said.
Another thing that can help Iowa State take it to the next level is a healthy Cam Lard.
The Iowa State forward was suspended for the first seven games of the season. He started off slow while he was getting back into the swing of things, but Prohm really liked his play as of late.
But Lard went down with an ankle injury against Baylor. Luckily, MRIs came back negative and it’s just a sprain.
“It’s just going to be day-to-day and how much pain toleration he has,” Prohm said. “Whether he can play Saturday will be a game-time decision. I don’t see him missing anything more than Saturday’s game. At the end of the day, it’s just an ankle sprain — a good ankle sprain — and we’re optimistic that we’ll get him back soon.”
Kansas State’s best player, and Big 12 preseason player of the year, Dean Wade has also been injured. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported Friday that Wade will also be a game-time decision on Saturday.
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