UPDATING THE CYCLONES
Since getting blown out by WVU on Feb. 10, Iowa State has reeled off consecutive wins over Texas Tech, Texas, and TCU, showing that the loss to the Mountaineers was something of an anomaly. ISU will be gunning for its seventh conference win in February, a feat it has never accomplished before, and will also be trying to reach the double-digit conference win plateau for the third consecutive season.
The Cyclones have seen Melvin Ejim (Sr, F, 6-6) continue his rise to the top of the Big 12 scoring charts, but still feature numerous scoring threats that can hit shots from all over the floor. Georges Niang (So., F, 6-7) has raised his scoring average considerably over the past month, and has tallied 17 or more points in nine of his last ten games, while Monte Forris (Fr., G, 6-2) has settled in as a recent starter. He leads the nation with a 5.2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
ISU doesn't need any resume-building to get into the NCAA tournament, as it would make it in even if it didn't win another game this year. With eight wins over RPI Top 50 teams, the Cyclones are more about working for a higher seed at this point in the season.
The Cyclones aren't likely to shoot 4-23 from 3-point range as they did in the first game against WVU. But will they attempt even half as many?
|Wed Feb 26
8:00 PM E
WVU 15-12, 7-7
ISU 21-5, 9-5
Big 12 Network
WVU - 82
ISU - 11
Common wisdom would hold that ISU will be anxious to show that performance was a fluke, especially in front of home fans who are the rowdiest and most dedicated in the league. However, there's one thing that might keep the Cyclones from hoisting two dozen long range shots -- and it's a familiar issue for Mountaineer fans.
Given West Virginia's abysmal interior defense of late, it's not hard to imagine that ISU will eschew at least some of its threes in an attempt to drive the ball, or run multiple screens ending in picks and rolls to the hoop. While the Cyclones aren't an inside team, Niang, Ejim, Houge and Kane can all take the ball into the paint to score, and their mobility on the perimeter may make it difficult for WVU to cover and react to the weaving, screening ISU attack.
Of course, the opposite could pan out -- attempts to depart from their normal offensive system and strengths could lead to some discontinuity, and help keep the Mountaineers in the game. So which will it be? Do the Cyclones run their normal stuff, or adjust to try to take advantage of West Virginia's glaring weakness?
WVU guard Terry Henderson will miss his second consecutive game with an illness. There is no projected timetable for his return.
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Iowa State has been ranked in the top 30 nationally in attendance the last six seasons, and is averaging 14,165 fans per home contest. Those numbers come on the strength of 11,468 season tickets sold this year.
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Barring an unforseen catastrophe, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten will become the 44th and 45th players to score 500 points in a season. Harris (489) and Staten (487) might each top the mark in this game. If both maintain their season averages, they could each take a run at the 600 mark, which only 16 players have reached.
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Iowa State's reputation is built on 3-point shooting, but it's quantity, not accuracy, that provides the foundation for its arc assault. The Cyclones are hitting just 33.7% of their threes this year, but their 629 attempts, coupled with their high number of possessions per game, mean that a few extra misses from distance don't hurt as much. The key to their scoring is their effective field goal percentage, which checks in at 34th in the nation.