Iowa St.-Texas Tech Preview

Although his squad is off to the program’s best conference start in 15 years, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg still has plenty of concerns heading into a matchup with last-place Texas Tech.

As they look to remain atop the Big 12, the ninth-ranked Cyclones hope to avoid another slow start Saturday as they try to keep a Red Raiders team that gave them fits last season winless in league play.

Iowa State has won four of its first five Big 12 contests for the first time since winning the regular season title in 1999-2000. Hoiberg’s club, however, is looking to play with a greater sense of urgency early in games.

The Cyclones have averaged 35.4 points in the first half over their last five games compared to 41.2 in the final 20 minutes. They’ve also been tied or trailing at the break while losing two of their last three away from Hilton Coliseum.

"We do a lot of things to work on not getting off to a slow start," Hoiberg said. "All those little things to hopefully get off to a great start, and you have to on the road in this league or you’re not going to win."

Iowa State trailed by five points early in the second half Tuesday before pulling out a 77-71 home win over Kansas State to move back into a first-place tie with 10-time defending champion Kansas.

Jameel McKay had a career high-tying 15 points off the bench, while Georges Niang added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists and Monte Morris hit a floater with 37 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Cyclones (14-3, 4-1) are scoring a conference-best 80.1 per game, though they’ve only reached that mark once in their last six – an 86-81 home win over the Jayhawks last Saturday.

With dates against No. 17 Texas, TCU and No. 11 Kansas coming after a trip to Lubbock, Iowa State has good reason not to look past a Texas Tech team that has dropped 12 of its last 13 conference games.

The Red Raiders rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit to tie things up in the most recent meeting in Lubbock on Jan. 4, 2014, before the Cyclones escaped with a 73-62 win. They also nearly pulled off the upset in Ames, falling 70-64 on Feb. 15.

"They played two great basketball games against us," Hoiberg said. "We were fortunate to walk away with both wins."

The Red Raiders (10-9, 0-6) hope to end their horrendous shooting slump as well as their six-game losing streak. They’ve totaled 85 points on a combined 25.5 percent shooting – including 7 for 32 from 3-point range – over their last two.

Keenan Evans had a season-high 18 points off the bench in Wednesday’s 63-43 loss at Oklahoma State. The freshman guard was the only player to score more than six.

Devaugntah Williams, averaging a team-high 10.4 points, went scoreless on just three field-goal attempts in 16 minutes.

"(Evans) really did all the things we needed him to do, he just needed a little more help," coach Tubby Smith said.

Niang finished with 17 points in each of the two meetings with Texas Tech last season.

The Red Raiders have dropped their three games versus ranked opponents this season, including home losses to then-No. 11 Texas and then-No. 14 West Virginia earlier this month.