AMES — Iowa State played well at the beginning of Tuesday’s Big 12 men’s basketball game against No. 17 West Virginia, jumping out to a 24-17 lead.
And the Cyclones played well at the end of the game, outscoring the Mountaineers 22-11 in the final 8:34.
It was the middle part of the game that doomed Iowa State in a 76-72 loss,
The Cyclones (2-10, 0-7 Big 12) had a stretch at the end of the first half where they went 3 for 16 from the field and went over four minutes without hitting a field goal.
Iowa State’s strong second half was spurred on by true freshman Jaden Walker and his play-making ability. Starting point guard Rasir Bolton went to the bench for a breather and Walker took over the reins and elevated Iowa State’s offensive execution.
Walker played all but two minutes against the Mountaineers (12-5, 5-3) and scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting. But where Walker shined brightest was in getting Iowa State into its offense against West Virginia’s tenacious defense.
Walker had six assists — four of which came in the final stretch that helped bring Iowa State within a two-point margin. He also had six rebounds, six turnovers, a block and a steal.
“There are a lot of intangible things that he does,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “He has to continue to grow on the defensive end guarding the dribble. He can get downhill, but if you watch, he fumbles the ball sometimes so we have to clean that up and I need to get in the gym with him to clean that up.
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“We want him to be our post feeder since he’s one of our better passers. I thought he had great activity with six rebounds and to go along with those six turnovers he had six assists. We have to take the next step and take the rebounds, take the assists and get those turnovers down.”
Walker said point guard is his natural position and Tuesday was his first extended time in that position.
“It felt good,” Walker said. “I know Coach has been trying to figure out who else can run the point behind Rasir since he’s playing a lot of minutes. I was able to step up to the challenge and help produce for the team.”
Bolton was able to get some much needed minutes of rest on the bench. He played 31 minutes and was one of three Iowa State players to score 15 points. He also had seven assists and six rebounds.
This was also Solomon Young’s first game back from COVID-19 protocol after missing the last two games.
Against West Virginia, he played 29 minutes and scored 15 points and had five rebounds.
The final Cyclone to score 15 points was Tyler Harris, who was 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
“Tonight, we were a totally different team,” Young said. “It shows teams have the ability to flip and turn things around just like that. We went from getting blown out to cutting it to two in the final minute against a ranked West Virginia team. If you work and fix the little things, it shows we’re not that far from winning games.”
Iowa State played well in long stretches on Tuesday but it wasn’t able to turn it into a win.
“I just needed to get these guys over the hump tonight,” Prohm said. “I needed to get them over the hump because they did some really good things.
“That’s what sucks.”
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