Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State men's basketball begins tough stretch at No. 9 Texas Tech

Red Raiders boast top-ranked defense in the nation

Iowa State guard Nick Weiler-Babbbrings the ball down court during a game against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa State guard Nick Weiler-Babbbrings the ball down court during a game against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State lost two games last week by a combined four points.

The reward for the Cyclones?

Traveling to No. 9 Texas Tech (15-1, 4-0 Big 12) to play the Red Raiders at 8 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU).

“You’re going to face some adversity,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “Things can turn quick for you in this league in a positive way and it can turn quick in a negative way. We know we have to get better, and where better to go than to play the best defensive team in the country and have to go win a game on the road with toughness and togetherness?”

Texas Tech has the No. 1-ranked defense in the nation according to KenPom. The Red Raiders hold their opponents to an average of just 54 points per game, shooing 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Opponents also turn the ball over 17 times per game against Texas Tech

Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard’s defense is a well-oiled machine. It alone will provide plenty of challenges and adversity for Iowa State (12-4, 2-2).

But if you add in the facts that Iowa State big man Cam Lard is still recovering from a sprained ankle, fellow forward Solomon Young applying for a medical redshirt after playing in just four games and the Cyclones’ best player, Lindell Wigginton, having yet to find his groove since returning from a foot injury, and Iowa State has its work cut out for it.

“This team has been through a ton and we’re only four games into the conference season,” Prohm said. “If you look around, I got home and flipped on the TV and I see Tristian Clark (Baylor) is out for the season. If you go down the line, Udoka Azubuike (Kansas), Jaylen Fisher (TCU), Clark ... Lard’s been in and out, Solomon, Lindell. Everybody has injuries. It’s just life.

“We have to play with who we have and hopefully we’ll get Cameron back and healthy. He provides a rim presence that we need. I thought George (Conditt) did a good job with helping us with that the other day. Cam provides physicality and athleticism up front.”

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Prohm said Lard will suit up for the game, but how much he plays will be predicated on his pain tolerance.

Iowa State’s two-week stretch of games, starting with Texas Tech, could be a season-defining stretch. Three of Iowa State’s next four games are on the road and all three road games are against top-20 teams — No. 9 Texas Tech, No. 8 Kansas on Monday and No. 20 Ole Miss next Saturday. The only home game is against Oklahoma State this Saturday at 5 p.m.

“I think (Texas Tech) is a must-win game for us,” guard Nick Weiler-Babb said. “Nobody wants to lose three in a row. It’s a tough place to play, but we have to go in there with extreme focus and the will to win.”

While Prohm understands the challenge, he’s also excited to see what his team is made of.

“Whenever we get the full team, we’ll be good,” Prohm said. “The sky isn’t falling. We have a tremendous two-week schedule here. They’re all tough but three of the next four are on the road.

“But shoot man, you have to love that. If you’re a competitor, man, let’s go to Texas Tech. Let’s go in there and have an unbelievable sense of urgency.”

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