Jan 8, 2019; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm takes off his tie as he leaves the court following a 73-70 loss to the Baylor Bears at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — One week ago, Steve Prohm sat in the center chair of the head table in the Pete Taylor Media Room at Hilton Coliseum. It was less than an hour after arguably the biggest regular season win of the Iowa State head coach’s time in Ames, a 77-60 domination of, at the time, No. 5 Kansas.
The talk in the room surrounded his young squad perhaps being the most talented team in the Big 12. Maybe, just maybe, this would be the year someone knocked the Jayhawks off of their 14-year perch at the top — and the Cyclones seemed like the prime candidate to do it.
On Saturday, Prohm sat in the very same chair in the center of the table, but this time without the smile or and the conversation was very different. This one surrounded his team’s second-straight Big 12 loss, a 58-57 defeat at the hands of the Kansas State Wildcats, a game the Cyclones led by five points with 2:42 left on the clock.
What a difference a week makes.
“I think everybody jumped and ran with one game and that’s the hardest thing to do. Whether it was good stuff or bad stuff, you’re dealing with a lot of stuff this week,” Prohm said. “This group, we didn’t collectively top to bottom do a good enough job handling it. That’s when your character gets tested. You’ve got to go back to work.”
It was an up-and-down game for both teams on a sleepy and snowy Saturday morning. The Cyclones went through stretches in which they could not get anything to go in the basket but then would follow it up by going on a several minute stretch seemingly without missing. It was the same way for the Wildcats, who entered the game coming off an epic 21-point comeback win over West Virginia on Wednesday night.
Iowa State enjoyed one of those stretches of feast beginning with a Nick Weiler-Babb 3-pointer at the 10:10 mark in the second half and the scoreboard reading 46-44 in favor of the Wildcats. The score was tied a possession later on a dunk by freshman George Conditt, who was sensational in his first extended Big 12 minutes.
Those two possessions eventually turned into a 14-2 Iowa State run spanning more than five minutes of game time and giving the home team a 55-48 lead with 5:02 left to play.
Blood was in the water and all the Cyclones needed to do was keep their foot on the gas in order to move to 3-1 in Big 12 play. They scored two more points in the final five minutes, going scoreless for the final 2:42.
“We got a great look (at three) up three with 40 seconds to go. They came down and I guess cut it to one. We didn’t do a good job guarding the dribble,” Prohm said. “That situation there, going back, if you win, you don’t say anything. If you lose, you’re going to look at every little thing. I maybe could have called timeout there to readdress press offense and who we want to get the ball to with this group. We got it into Lindell. He missed the free throw. That’s going to happen. Then they just got (Barry) Brown in space and he beat us to the basket.”
Brown’s layup at the rim with 5.6 seconds left gave Kansas State its first lead in more than eight minutes. The Cyclones had one last ditch effort, but Lindell Wigginton‘s heave from well beyond the 3-point line missed the mark and sent a silent Hilton Coliseum crowd towards the snow-ridden parking lots.
“Against them, with 5.6 (seconds), that’s a lot of time. I don’t want to call timeout and go the length of the floor against their set defense. I want to get the floor spaced and you’ve got an opportunity to get at least five dribbles in that time,” Prohm said. “That’s just something that our attention to detail in those situations comes from practice and hopefully this is a learning curve where these guys understand when we’re going 5.2 on the clock and we’re playing that out, special situations, you better be dialed in on what we’re looking for and what we want. I think if you look at it, we probably could have got another couple dribbles and got down into the paint because they’re not going to foul and the floor is spread. That’s just something we’ve got to continue to work on.”
Nearly all of the excitement built up by the win over the Jayhawks is gone. The team appeared dysfunctional for long stretches on Saturday and in its loss to Baylor earlier in the week.
The stingy defense and the free-flowing offense that allowed them to bury the king of the Big 12 into the Ames dirt have suffered for long stretches during both of the games. Now, they get the reward of going on the road to the league’s only remaining undefeated team, No. 8 Texas Tech for an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday.
What a difference a week makes.
“We just need to keep playing. It’s week one, week two. At the end of the day, we’ve got to go win some road games,” Prohm said. “Probably a couple you guys don’t think we can get. I told our guys that after the Baylor game. We just can’t let these home games slip away. When you’re up five with three minutes to go, we’ve got to finish. All you need is one basket and we had opportunities whether it was from the free throw line, whether it was from open threes, whether it was from drive and kicks, we’ve got to complete one or two plays down the stretch then make one stop. We’ve got to grow from it.”
*** Prohm announced after the game junior forward Solomon Young has decided to take a medical redshirt this season after struggling to get back to full strength following offseason groin surgery. Young played in four games for the Cyclones, making his season debut on Dec. 21 against Eastern Illinois, and averaged 6.8 minutes and 1.8 points per game.
“Solomon and I have recently had talks about his recovery from the injury he suffered in preseason practice, and after consulting with our medical staff, he has decided that it is in his best interest to pursue a medical redshirt this season,” Prohm said in a university release. “Solomon and our medical staff worked extremely hard to get him back on the court this season, but in the end, Solomon isn’t comfortable where he is at physically and we support him.”
Young has started 38 games during his Iowa State career and was a crucial piece of the Cyclones’ 2016-17 Big 12 Tournament championship squad. He will return to the court next season with two seasons of eligibility remaining.
“This isn’t a decision that can be made overnight. I’ve come across from tough decisions in my life, but I can’t think of any tougher than this,” Young said. “I put my heart and soul out on the court. I’ve pushed myself to many limits. I play for my teammates, I play for everyone who believes and supports me. I love Iowa State and I wish I could be out there doing everything I can to win… I believe I need to take this time to finally get 100 percent so I can help max out this program and max myself out.”
*** Conditt scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field, grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and grabbed one steal in 15 minutes against Kansas State while playing his first rotational minutes in Big 12 play.
“He played great. He was terrific for us,” Prohm said. “I knew George was going to have to step up. He’s played well all season. He’s played really well all season long.”