AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm said earlier this season there were three games he had circled as the toughest mentally for his team.
The first was Northern Illinois, which came after Iowa State’s first Power Five road trip of the season to Oregon State. The next was Kansas City, which came after the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and before the Seton Hall game. Iowa State won both of those games handily.
The third is Iowa State’s game Sunday at noon against Purdue Fort Wayne (7-7) at Hilton Coliseum. The game comes after an 84-68 loss to Iowa and is the Cyclones’ last before Christmas.
But it might be a little easier than Prohm originally thought for his team to prepare for.
“We got humbled against Iowa. All of us,” Prohm said. “We got embarrassed. From that standpoint, as a competitor and a winner, that’s going to get you up and ready to go.”
Prohm said the Cyclones (6-4) had several great practices following last Thursday’s loss and they believe they’ve identified the problem — defensive consistency.
Iowa State has used the 10 days between games to refine the defense.
“We have to be better on the defensive end of the floor,” Prohm said. “If you look at our offensive numbers outside of 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding, they’re at the top. We’re averaging right at 80 points per game. We have to get better defensively. We have to rebound better, get back in transition and make tougher plays.
“Toughness, energy focus, attention to detail, rebounding, ball-screen defense — go down the line against Iowa, we weren’t very good at any of it. The weird part is, three days before against Seton Hall, we were terrific. It’s about consistency.”
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The problem isn’t that Iowa State doesn’t have the guys — they are clearly athletic enough to do it — it’s just about doing it.
“It’s something we have to figure out,” guard Tyrese Haliburton said. “I don’t know if there’s an exact solution, but we have to figure it out day-by-day. I don’t know if there’s a real answer — we can do it when we want to, just look at Seton Hall. We can do it when we want to, we just have to want to do it for 40 minutes every game.”
One of the only areas Iowa State is good in defensively is blocking shots — and that’s almost entirely because of sophomore George Conditt.
“We should have great ball pressure and get guys off the 3-point line because we have guys like George that can block shots and makes it tough to finish,” Prohm said.
Haliburton feels a responsibility to help fix the problem.
“My job is to be coach Prohm on the floor,” Haliburton said. “I need to reiterate what he says and that way they can hear it from me and not him all the time. We just have to buy into playing team defense. I think it’s something we’ll get resolved very quickly.”
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