Iowa State Cyclones

The formula Iowa State men's basketball needs to succeed at Auburn and the rest of this season

Tyrese Haliburton and Rasir Bolton are key for Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton drives the ball around Kansas Jayhawks guard Devon Dotson at Hilton Coliseum in A
Iowa State Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton drives the ball around Kansas Jayhawks guard Devon Dotson at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team believes it has found its recipe for success.

Tyrese Haliburton and Rasir Bolton need to be aggressive and the Cyclones need one of their post players to control the paint.

That formula is what worked in Iowa State’s two Big 12 wins and it’ll be tested Saturday as Iowa State (9-9) travels to play No. 16 Auburn (16-2) at 11 a.m in the Big 12-SEC Challenge (ESPNU).

“When Rasir and Tyrese play well, we’re a different team,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “We’re going to need them against Auburn because of the way they play defensively.”

Auburn’s defense resembles Bob Huggins’ West Virginia teams from the past few years. The Tigers pressure relentlessly and aren’t afraid to get in passing lanes.

The Cyclones have turned the ball over 19 times in each of the past two games — a number that’ll need to be reduced against Auburn if Iowa State wants to have success.

“We’re going to need to put those guys up top and try to spread them out and dribble drive,” Prohm said. “Rasir is probably our best guy at being able to get by somebody and put pressure on the rim.”

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Bolton’s game against Oklahoma State on Wednesday was exactly what Iowa State needs out of the sophomore guard. Making 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range like he did against the Cowboys is unsustainable, but if he’s around 2-for-5 or 2-for-6 from beyond the arc, that opens things up.

Bolton’s 3-point percentage over the last seven games is 50 percent. Bolton is Iowa State’s best option to drive into the paint and finish through contact.

His proven ability to do that has freed things up for him on the perimeter.

“My driving ability has probably helped out a lot,” Bolton said. “Teams are playing me for the drive more but I’ve been working and my shot finally decided to fall. I’m just happy they’re going in.”

While Bolton can finish at the rim, Haliburton draws so much attention that he’s able to kick it out and find the open man.

Prohm has said since Haliburton was a freshman that he would always like Haliburton to take more shots and be more aggressive in that way because he’s the Cyclones’ best player, but facilitating comes naturally to him.

When Bolton is on and one of George Conditt, Solomon Young or Michael Jacobson is controlling the paint for Haliburton to get the ball to, it makes Iowa State’s offense that much better.

“When he plays well and we have a post presence, we’re hard to guard,” Haliburton said. “Teams can load up on me all they want, when those other two things happen, we’re good.”

Auburn had an outstanding start to the season, going 15-0 before the Tigers lost back-to-back games against Florida and Alabama. Iowa State beat Alabama 104-89 earlier this season.

But Auburn got back on track in its last game against South Carolina.

The Tigers are beatable, but Iowa State needs to follow its recipe for success.

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“(Haliburton) needs to always be aggressive and always be in attack mode,” Prohm said. “Him and Rasir, they need to play well. That’s the reality. When they play well and then you add in some post play, we have a chance to do some really good things.”

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