NCAA BK

Palo's return least of Iowa State's concerns

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AMES, Iowa (AP)

(Eds: Updates.)By LUKE MEREDITHAP Sports Writer

The potential distraction caused by the return of guard Bubu Palo appears to be the last thing Iowa State is worried about.

The slumping Cyclones have bigger issues to deal with.

After winning 14 games in a row, Iowa State (14-3, 2-3 Big 12) has lost three straight for the first time in three years. The Cyclones have fallen 2 1/2 games behind league-leading Kansas, and they dropped eight spots to No. 16 in this week's Top 25.

Iowa State has a week to prepare for Saturday's home game against No. 22 Kansas State, and it started with a players-only meeting designed to diagnose what's gone wrong.

''We just got a lot of stuff off our chest that we felt we needed to talk about,'' forward Georges Niang said.

When it comes to Palo, coach Fred Hoiberg isn't saying much.

Palo had been found to have violated Iowa State's student code of conduct and was kicked off the team following a sexual assault charge that was later dropped. Last week, a judge issued a temporary stay for Palo that allowed him to rejoin the Cyclones over the objections of athletic director Jamie Pollard.

Hoiberg said Monday he had a ''very brief'' meeting with Palo a couple of days ago, adding that he and Palo haven't spoken since Saturday's loss at Texas.

Palo's teammates insist that the situation hasn't been an issue and that that they're ready to welcome Palo back on the team.

''We're going to let coach (Hoiberg) handle Bubu. He's on our team now. We want him to be back on our team. You know, we missed him,'' senior point guard DeAndre Kane said. ''We're happy for him. We know he's excited to be back on the team.''

Palo will likely have a negligible impact on the Cyclones even if he ends up back in uniform. He averaged just 2.8 points a game last season and hasn't practiced with the team for months.

Last weekend, the rest of the Cyclones overcame the poor perimeter shooting and rebounding that cost them in losses to Oklahoma and Kansas. But turnovers and inconsistency on the glass doomed Iowa State in an 86-76 loss to the Longhorns.

Iowa State uncharacteristically turned the ball over 18 times against Texas. And although the Cyclones held a plus-3 edge in rebounding, they allowed the Longhorns to dominate the boards in crucial stretches.

''I just though turnovers, for the first time all year, really plagued us. We're obviously very good in that area - we're No. 1 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio,'' Hoiberg said. ''We need to put a full 40 (minutes) together of taking care of the basketball and controlling the glass.''

Tagged: Iowa, Kansas, Iowa State, Bubu Palo

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