It would be easy to forgive Iowa State for looking ahead to its Big 12 opener at unbeaten and third-ranked Oklahoma.
Coach Steve Prohm, though, is trying to keep his 11th-ranked Cyclones focused on the task at hand, which is taking care of Coppin State on Wednesday night.
The Cyclones have been idle since last Wednesday's 81-79 victory at then-No. 22 Cincinnati. Abdel Nader's 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play provided the winning points as they bounced back from a two-point loss to Northern Iowa, and Prohm has used the practice time around the holiday prepping his team mentally.
Article continues below ...
“(We) just want to play the right way with good focus and good energy and build for this weekend,” he said before Tuesday's practice. “That's what I've been preaching about this week, having great focus, because Saturday will come. It's about tomorrow and having a good practice today. Don't cheat the game, play the game the right away. When they play the right away, they're fun to watch and a really, really good group.”
Georges Niang had 24 points and 10 rebounds versus the Bearcats, and Iowa State got a huge boost off its bench from Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton, who combined for 25 points. Burton finished with 12 points in 16 minutes in his second game after becoming eligible following his mid-season transfer from Marquette.
“His practice habits have improved the last month now that he knew he was getting ready to play,” Prohm said of Burton. “At Cincinnati he gave great effort, made big plays, put pressure on the basket. That's the biggest thing offensively, put pressure on the basket. He's a guy physically who can get to the free throw line for us.”
While reserve guard Hallice Cooke has gone 0 for 5 from beyond the arc the last two games and 0 for 6 overall, Prohm isn't too worried about the sophomore.
And there really aren't too many reasons to worry about Coppin State (2-12), which is one of Division I's “road warriors” in the sense it spends most of its non-conference play playing at high-major venues to help fund its athletic department.
The Eagles are 0-8 on the road this season, with trips from their Baltimore campus ranging to the Bronx in New York against Fordham to the West Coast for games at San Francisco and California on back-to-back nights. They've allowed an average of 93.0 points in these games after a 102-77 setback at Creighton on Monday, getting 22 points from Trevon Seymore, but the Bluejays shot 60.7 percent from the field and 52.2 percent (12 for 23) from 3-point range.
These annual road struggles are nothing new. Coppin State began this style of scheduling under predecessor Ron “Fang” Mitchell and has continued the philosophy under second-year coach Michael Grant. He's yet to record a non-conference road victory in 18 attempts, losing at 17 different venues since the Eagles have lost at Akron each of the last two seasons.
Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Coppin State is 2-93 against the five major conferences and the Big East, with the lone victories coming at Missouri on Dec. 2, 1997, and at Oregon State on Nov. 10, 2013.
The Cyclones – out to extend their 32-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents – can claim one of those victories, a 77-74 overtime triumph Dec. 6, 1997, to improve to 2-0 in the all-time series.