Iowa State won’t do anything fancy to exploit Iowa getting tagged 86-46 in paint points the past two games.
Randy Peterson, [email protected]
AMES, Ia. — As we approach Thursday’s Cy-Hawk basketball game, I’m wondering …
You know that four-guard offense Iowa State’s been playing throughout its 7-1 start? Will it ever become two guards and three bigs?
As unlikely as that sounds, it shows the uncommon state of this Cyclones team Steve Prohm coaches. His roster now includes three healthy and eligible players 6-foot-9 or taller — 6-9s Mike Jacobson and Cam Lard, and 6-10 George Conditt — and that’s not even counting 6-8 Solomon Young, still on the shelf after undergoing groin surgery.
All have had significant moments this season or last. All can play. And with the team they’re facing at 7 p.m. Thursday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena being outscored 86-46 in the paint during Big Ten losses against Wisconsin and Michigan State …
I’m just wondering.
“We don’t have any tricks up our sleeve,” Prohm said Tuesday. “What we feel comfortable with right now has been really good for us. As we get time and as guys get healthy and we get to total full strength and have real legit practice time, we’ll grow into where we can play both ways.”
Before Lard returned during Monday’s 81-59 win against North Dakota State, Prohm’s basic lineup included perimeter players Nick Weiler-Babb, Talen Horton-Tucker, Marial Shayok and Tyrese Haliburton on the floor with Jacobson.
Three of the five can hustle the ball up the floor and then either shoot, drive or pass. The powerful 6-4, 233-pound Horton-Tucker can and has played everything but the point. Jacobson isn’t limited to just hanging out under the basket — his five 3-point baskets in eight games is one more than he made in 31 games during his final season at Nebraska in 2016-17.
Better than Prohm expected?
“He’s been better from an offensive standpoint of stretching the defense, playing in pick-and-roll, shooting 15-to-17-foot shots — those types of things,” Prohm said. “He hasn’t surprised me in character and toughness and energy, and being about the right things.
“I knew we were getting that. He did a great job in his sit-out year in gaining confidence in his jump shot and really just playing free.”
So whichever way Iowa State plays, Jacobson will be on the floor for 30 or so minutes. He’s been a backbone of the team during Lard’s seven-game suspension, but when Lard gets into basketball shape …
Jacobson averages 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. Conditt leads the Cyclones with 11 blocked shots, after swatting five against North Dakota State. Lard, who played his first game Monday night, averaged 12.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots a season ago.
Multiple post players mean multiple options. Eventually.
“Right now, we’re not at a point where we all feel comfortable playing big —and we haven’t done it a ton,” Prohm said. “I feel comfortable where we’re at, from the aspect of playing small and playing four guards.”
They’ll play that way Thursday, too, but that doesn’t mean they’ll abandon trying to score in the post.
“We’ve got some things to get the ball inside,” Prohm said. “We can go inside-out with Mike. Cameron can score round the basket and off offensive rebounds. There’s dribble penetration.”
Horton-Tucker will be as powerful as anyone his size. Jacobson can play on the perimeter or inside.
There’s plenty of ways to score in the paint — even with Iowa State’s four-guard lineup.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at [email protected] or on Twitter at @RandyPete.