Iowa St.-West Virginia Preview

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg statistically has the best-shooting and highest-scoring team in the Big 12, but suddenly his squad has been struggling to find its rhythm.

If the 17th-ranked Cyclones aren’t careful with the ball Saturday night, they won’t get many opportunities to get their offense going.

Iowa State realizes it’s in for a tough road test against No. 14 West Virginia, which has used its full-court pressure to force more turnovers than any other team in the country.

The Cyclones (11-2, 1-0) still lead the Big 12 in scoring at 80.9 points per game and field-goal percentage at 48.9, but they’ve been taken out of their game over the last two.

They went 1 for 18 from 3-point range, shot 35.1 percent overall and were held to their lowest point total in nearly two years in a 64-60 loss to South Carolina in Brooklyn last Saturday, then escaped with a 63-61 home win over Oklahoma State in Tuesday’s conference opener.

Iowa State won’t have it easy getting back to its successful ways against West Virginia (14-1, 2-0), which leads the nation in turnovers forced per game (22.6), steals per game (13.1) and offensive rebounds per contest (18.0).

"Their system is really based on turning you over and offensive rebounding," said Hoiberg, whose squad commits the fewest mistakes in the Big 12 with 11.5 per game. "They pressure you for 40 minutes all over the floor. We’re going to have to take care of the ball and rebound. It’s pretty simple."

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins’ defensive schemes have complicated things for opponents and he has West Virginia off to its best start since it won 24 of 25 to begin the 1981-82 campaign.

Huggins wasn’t overly impressed with Monday’s 78-67 win at Texas Tech, though, saying his players were regularly out of position defensively. Juwan Staten, who sat out a 78-67 victory at TCU with an illness two days earlier, battled through the nagging bug and finished with 16 points.

Huggins said Staten was vomiting after the game but is hoping he’s finally recovered.

”He wasn’t Juwan,” Huggins said. ”He’s an 80-something percent free throw shooter, and he goes 3 for 8. He settled down in the second half and did the things that he’s really good at doing.”

Staten is a key piece of West Virginia’s pressure, which Huggins is hoping can slow down the Cyclones.

"I think people have been afraid to press them because of their skill level," Huggins said. "They want to speed (the game) up, and we want to speed the game up."

Part of Iowa State’s offensive struggles have been due to leading scorer Georges Niang having his own issues. Niang finished with 10 points in each of the last two, shooting a combined 6 for 25 and missing all nine of his 3-point attempts.

"I’m not hitting the big red panic button just yet," Niang said. "I just have to get back to making winning plays. I’m not going to have a great game every time I come out, but I expect that."

The Cyclones’ last trip to Morgantown didn’t go so well, as the Mountaineers beat No. 11 Iowa State 102-77 on Feb. 10 with help from Staten’s 19 points and nine assists.

"Going in there last time and losing by (25) definitely wasn’t a great feeling," said Niang, who had 17 points and six turnovers in that loss. "We’ve tried to simulate their physicality in practice. Their guys are going to be crashing the glass hard, so we’re going to have to put a body on them."

Niang had a game-high 24 points in the rematch in Ames later that month as the Cyclones won 83-66.