AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm is doing what all basketball coaches do.
Taking a big game — potentially the biggest home game of the year — and down ]playing it as much as possible.
Iowa State (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) hosts No. 6 Kansas (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.
Prohm is telling his players that the game needs to be a “substance” game rather than a “hype” game.
“It’s not a hype game,” Prohm said. “It’s a ‘What do you value?’ game. It’s a hit-singles game, it’s a do-the-right-things game, it’s a substance game. If we do that well, we’ll have a great opportunity.”
Freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton bought in hook, line and sinker, repeating Prohm nearly verbatim.
But he does recognize the hype that surrounds ISU-KU.
“Obviously the game is sold out, there are going to be a lot of people here, it’s probably going to be really loud,” Haliburton said. “I cannot wait to get out there. I love to play in front of big crowds and fun atmospheres. I thought the Missouri game was really fun but people say the Kansas game will be double that. I really can’t wait.”
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Senior Nick Weiler-Babb has played in enough of these games that he has a good feel for how the game will work itself out and how Haliburton and fellow freshman Talen Horton-Tucker will handle it.
“I think they have to go into it thinking it’s a regular game and play how they have been playing — they’ve been big time for us,” Weiler-Babb said. “You have to let the hype get out of you and once the hype settles down and the adrenaline wears off, it’s just going to be skill and who’s the tougher team.”
Iowa State is still trying to figure itself out to some extent. Sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton has only played in two games since returning from a foot injury and junior forward Solomon Young has only played in two games this season.
Prohm is also still trying to work sophomore forward Cam Lard and senior wing Zoran Talley back into the lineup after their seven-game suspensions to start the season.
The Cyclones have only played two total games with their full lineup this season and now they have to go toe-to-toe with the 14-time reigning Big 12 champions.
“I’m getting a better feel for them,” Prohm said. “Lindell played 30-plus minutes and that’s going to be the norm for him. Lard, I wanted to give him the first crack (against Oklahoma State) and I thought he made a huge difference for us defensively. Offensively, he ran the floor, he got some good slips in the pick and roll. But defensively he gave the presence that we need in the league. He was dialed in.
“It’s taken him a while. He wasn’t playing like he did that night in practice or in games — if he was I would’ve been playing him a lot more. That was the first step and now he needs to take the next step and put more consecutive good practices together and continue to put time in the gym.”
The thing Prohm was happiest about his team from Wednesday’s 69-63 win over Oklahoma State was the fact that Iowa State had 12 players play significant minutes during the nonconference portion of the schedule, and Prohm is a coach who doesn’t like to go deeper than eight on his bench. He was happy with how the players accepted their roles.
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Iowa State had four players play 30 or more minutes against Oklahoma State. That’ll likely remain consistent, but the players who reach the 30-minute mark could change based on who has the hot hand.
“The 30 minutes could change, but at the end of the day, you can’t throw 10 or 11 guys in there just because you think you have them,” Prohm said. “You have to play the guys who you think can win. If you’re running guys in and out, that kind of defeats the purpose.”
As Prohm mentioned, Wigginton came off the bench and played 30 minutes against Oklahoma State. He had 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists against the Cowboys, including a 3-pointer that sealed the win.
Was that enough for Prohm to insert Wigginton into the starting lineup after his injury?
“Lindell had a tremendous game and he’s obviously had a huge impact on our program and our team,” Prohm said. “He played 30-plus minutes and played really, really well. Offensively he hit a big shot. The bottom line is in this league, you need finishers. You need guys who can finish games.”
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