AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team just finished as difficult a nine-game stretch as there is in college basketball.
The Cyclones played five ranked teams — three in the top three — and finished the stretch 2-7.
Theoretically, Iowa State’s schedule calms down a bit with only one ranked opponent in its next five games in No. 12 West Virginia. The Mountaineers are the only team in that stretch with a winning record in the Big 12.
Iowa State travels to Austin, Texas, on Saturday to play Texas at 1 p.m.
This stretch won’t get Iowa State back in the NCAA Tournament talk — those hopes were snake bit when the Cyclones lost to the Florida A&M Rattlers — but it does give the Cyclones (9-11, 2-5 Big 12) a chance to get back (or above) .500.
If the Cyclones want to get back on track, they desperately need to find a third option.
Tyrese Haliburton has worked his way into the top five of NBA mock drafts and Rasir Bolton has come on as of late.
Bolton has made 47 percent of his 3-point attempts over the last nine games and has averaged 17.8 points in that nine-game stretch.
At the beginning of the season, Bolton established himself as a guy who can get down hill and finish at the rim. But now with his shot finally coming around, he’s able to keep defenses honest.
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“His shooting really helps,” Haliburton said. “He gives us another option offensively and he makes people have to stay honest and be aware of where he is at all times. They can’t help as much on me if he’s making shots like that.”
Bolton’s approach is simple.
“I’m just staying aggressive and I’m trying to win,” Bolton said.
The key for Iowa State this next stretch is another player stepping up like Bolton did recently.
Solomon Young and George Conditt both had good games during that time, but neither were able to sustain it from game-to-game.
“We need a third guy,” Coach Steve Prohm said. “With the way people are guarding Tyrese, we get good looks and we have to make those. Against Baylor, Rasir was 4 for 8 from 3-point and the rest of the team was 0 for 9.
“We have to finish around the paint and make tough plays around the paint. We get bunnies but we aren’t making the tough plays.
“I can beat myself up, and that’s my nature, but this team has to make tough plays. We had bunnies that should’ve been and-1s. We have to draw charges. I’ve seen teams do it before, so we have to figure out how to get this team to do it and sustain it.”