AMES — Moral victories are not real victories.
The Iowa State men’s basketball team will be the first to say it.
“We preach in the locker room that we don’t want any moral victories,” guard Tre Jackson said. “Those aren’t ‘Ws’ those are just ‘Ws’ in people’s eyes who thought we did a good job and tried hard.”
That being said, Iowa State has played two top-10 teams in Big 12 Conference play so far and each game has come down to the final minutes.
The Cyclones lost 70-65 to then-No. 8 West Virginia on Dec. 18 and 76-65 to No. 2 Baylor on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Cyclones’ schedule doesn’t get any easier as Iowa State plays No. 4 Texas in Austin.
“It just takes us being mentally ready and getting our bodies nice and loose,” Solomon Young said of what it takes to play back-to-back top-five teams. “It’s a mind and body kind of thing. We played Baylor close and now we get No. 4 Texas. But that’s the Big 12.”
Coach Steve Prohm has seen some good things in his team’s close losses.
Iowa State out-rebounded West Virginia 24-22 and only got out-rebounded by one against Baylor, 25-24.
The other thing Prohm has liked has been his team’s defense. In particular, its 3-point defense.
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West Virginia, Baylor and Kansas State — Iowa State’s three conference opponents — have shot a combined 11 of 56 from 3-point range.
The sticking point for this Iowa State team is something it hasn’t struggled with in years and that’s turnovers.
The Cyclones had 21 turnovers against both Baylor and West Virginia and 18 against Kansas State.
Iowa State believes that if it can clean up the little things, it can start putting teams away at the end of games, instead of fading.
“We’re a team that’s still building chemistry,” Young said. “To play those higher-ranked teams and for it to come down to a few possessions on both of them, that lets us know that we’re not a bad team. We just have to fix some small things to finish out these games.”
Prohm knows the caliber of team that’s needed to compete in the Big 12. And he believes this team is getting close.
“You have to get better, and get better daily to grow and build,” Prohm said. “But at the end of the day, you’re judged on if you won. No moral victories. We’ve won multiple championships the last several years here and that’s how we’re defined.
“We have another really good team to play in Texas and we have to go down there and win. We have to keep fighting and plugging. We’ve been dialed and we’ve given good effort. Now we need to finish.”