Iowa St.-Texas Preview
Iowa State got off to the best start in school history behind superb shooting and strong rebounding.
The Cyclones suddenly can't do either.
No. 8 Iowa State (14-2, 2-2 Big 12) was dominated on the glass in recent defeats to Oklahoma and Kansas, and it was even worse from beyond the arc. The Cyclones were minus-24 in rebounding and 10 of 51 from 3-point range in back-to-back losses that followed a 14-0 start.
Granted, two games are a small sample size for a team that was brilliant for two months. But improved rebounding and shooting were key points of emphasis this week ahead of Saturday's game at Texas (13-4, 2-2), where the Cyclones have won once in 11 tries.
''Rebounding is more effort. So if we can get back to doing the little things, winning the 50-50 balls, I think we'll be fine,'' forward Georges Niang said. ''The law (of averages says that) you're eventually going to make shots. So we'll just keep shooting them.''
Iowa State doesn't start anyone over 6-foot-7. But it has still been a tough matchup for most teams because of the unique skill sets of players like Niang, point guard DeAndre Kane and forward Melvin Ejim.
The Sooners and Jayhawks showed that the smaller Cyclones can be vulnerable to big front lines.
Oklahoma center Ryan Spangler had 16 points and 15 rebounds - including one more offensive rebound than the entire Iowa State roster - as the Sooners handed Iowa State its first defeat, 87-82 last Saturday. Kansas beat the Cyclones 77-70 on Monday in part because of a massive 53-36 edge in rebounding.
Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins had 19 boards after never grabbing more than 11 in a single game. Seven-foot center Joel Embiid had nine rebounds and shot 7 of 8 from the field, all from close range.
The Cyclones have plenty of talented rebounders of their own. Dustin Hogue, a 6-6 forward, is second in the Big 12 with 9.3 rebounds per game. Ejim (6.9) is 11th in the league and Kane (7.3) is one of the best rebounding guards in the country.
According to Ejim, a renewed focus on the glass should help Iowa State fix its recent woes.
The Cyclones will need to be at their best against Texas, which is second in the Big 12 in rebounding margin and outrebounded West Virginia 49-30 in an 80-69 road win Monday.
''Rebounding's not a technique. It's just wanting it (more). It's just going hard,'' Ejim said. ''Guys were getting after it and we really emphasized how we're trying to get back to what we were doing in the beginning. Really just focusing on it. Me and Dustin are just taking initiative to really just be monsters on the glass again.''
Iowa State's recent cold streak from the perimeter isn't nearly as much of a concern for coach Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones, like all teams that rely heavily on 3-point shooting, know that sometimes those shots simply don't go down.
Iowa State's starters had just three 3s on 17 tries against Oklahoma. Kansas coach Bill Self acknowledged the Jayhawks benefited as Iowa State only shot 4 of 25 from 3-point range.
The Cyclones still lead the Big 12 in 3-pointers per game, and Hoiberg knows that panicking will only make things worse.
''You don't change your form,'' he said. ''You don't do things that you haven't been doing your whole life to correct it. It's a two-game slump that we've had. We'll dig out of it.''
Texas looks like it has broken out of its own slump with consecutive wins following a 1-3 stretch. Sophomore guard Javan Felix scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting Monday as the Longhorns shot a season-high 52.7 percent.
Iowa State almost pulled out a rare win at Texas last season before losing 89-86 in double overtime. Ejim had 20 points and a career-best 16 rebounds for the Cyclones, who have lost 10 of 12 overall in the series.