Jan 18, 2020; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) passes the ball over Texas Tech Red Raiders forward TJ Holyfield (22) in the second half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
There is value in having experience.
It does not matter if we are talking about working, dating, driving, drinking beer (the latter two not at the same time) or many other tasks. The more you do something and the more experience you have, the better you will usually be at that particular skill.
That can be said about playing basketball in the Big 12, too.
Each opportunity to step on a Big 12 basketball court is an opportunity for growth. They all stack on top of each other, allowing a player to become more comfortable with each instance.
Some teams, like Iowa State, lack Big 12 experience and have to learn on the fly. Others, like Kansas State last season or Baylor this year, have already seen nearly every situation that could be thrown at them in a Big 12 arena.
There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but, more often than not, when the going gets tough in league play, experience wins out. Just ask the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who will visit Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tip and learned the hard way what experience can do when Baylor erased a double-digit deficit to extend its undefeated run, and push the Cowboys’ winless run, to open Big 12 play to five.
Several hours later, when the going got tough for Iowa State in Lubbock against No. 18 Texas Tech, the Cyclones sunk back, unable to regain their footing against one of the league’s best, and, somewhat ironically, most inexperienced, teams on the way to a 20-point loss.
“Experience, continuity, all that stuff is huge,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said on Monday. “You look at some of the teams out there, like Duke, that’s got a lot of young guys, it’s obviously really good, but you look at one of the teams we play and four of their five best players are seniors. Experience and continuity, that stuff is obviously huge. When you look at last year’s teams that went to the Final Four, you have a lot of seniors and a lot of experience and a lot of continuity.”
Iowa State has mostly shown an ability to compete with the top teams in the league on the way to a 1-4 start in Big 12 play. They were within five points on the road at Baylor last week. The Red Raiders held a six-point lead at the break on Saturday.
The difference in those games came when the opponent was able to turn things up to another gear, Baylor’s run coming immediately after halftime and Tech’s arriving closer to the mid-point of the second half, while Iowa State fell back, forcing shots offensively and slipping up with silly turnovers while allowing open shots and easy looks at the rim on defense.
“You got to be mentally tough enough to be able to get down, you know, like Baylor did the other day at Oklahoma State. What were they down? 12? They came back and won. That’s just part of basketball,” Prohm said. “You got to be able to weather storms.”
For the Cyclones, weathering the storm has been the tallest task this season. Whether it was against Iowa, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU or, heck, even Florida A&M, when it was gut-check time and the team’s best was needed in order to land a counter-punch and create a run of its own in hopes of securing victory, they have failed to weather the storm.
On the bright side, 13 opportunities to grow experience in Big 12 play still exist and that number rises to 14 with the addition of this coming Saturday’s game on the road at Auburn.
The number of wins left in those growth opportunities could come down to the number of times the Cyclones can become the storm rather than being swept up in it.
“There is no easy week in this league. You’ve got to keep getting punch and keep figuring out ways to punch back,” Prohm said. “You can have one bad week in this league then have one good week and change everybody’s spirits. We’ve got to stay the course but we’ve got to figure out ways, obviously, to get better.”