AMES | The Iowa State men’s basketball team has started off conference play 0-4. The Cyclones are better than their 0-4 record suggests, but playing in the Big 12, one of the best and deepest conferences in the nation, has put them squarely in last place.
The last three games for Iowa State have all gone down to the wire — two going into overtime — but the Cyclones have been unable to finish any of them off.
Iowa State (9-6, 0-4 Big 12) will try to right the ship against Baylor (11-5, 1-3 Big 12) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Hilton Coliseum.
“We’re getting better,” coach Steve Prohm said. “I just think it’s an every-day learning process, learning curve. We have made a lot of strides from the beginning of the year and from the first conference game to now. It’s just the last four minutes we have to be better.”
At the 3:40 mark in Iowa State’s last game against Kansas, it was tied 73-73. The Jayhawks ended the game on a 10-5 run to close out the game.
Prohm said part of the problem was fatigue from his three guards — Nick Weiler-Babb, Donovan Jackson and Lindell Wigginton. Prohm said he needed to trust his bench more to give those guys a break.
“I thought we got fatigued at the end,” Prohm said. “Kansas is great place to play but I just thought our execution and our pace in half-court offense in the last three or four minutes just wasn’t at the pace it needs to be at. I think we have to get some of [the bench guys] out there, but statistically, you have to prove yourself to give me confidence to put you out there.”
Prohm said he gave Jakolby Long, Terrence Lewis and Zoran Talley all opportunities as Iowa State prepared for Baylor. He wanted to see who stood apart from the pack.
“You have to trust [your depth] [late in the game],” Prohm said. “You have to — at some point. Whether it’s Jakolby, Zoran or Terrence, like I told those guys, ‘You have to separate yourself out there in practice.’ If you’re all even, I’m going to try one of you one day and one of you the next day and whoever separates yourself is who I’ll probably go with first.”
Even Wigginton admitted to being fatigued at the end of the Kansas game. He played all 40 minutes and took on the bulk of the scoring load, tallying 27 points.
He said they’d been working on closing out late-game situations in practice, but it’s hard to simulate the mental part of it and the mental fatigue.
“It’s definitely mental,” Wigginton said. “You’re tired at the end of the game, you just have to fight through on every play.”
But with all the work they’ve been putting in and with hopefully an expanded bench, Wigginton believes a break-through is right around the corner.
“We’ve been getting better and better each game,” Wigginton said. “I feel like the last two games were really good, we just couldn’t come up with the win. I feel like it’s going to be a good game coming up, hopefully we get the win.”