Feb 25, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tre Jackson (3) plays against the TCU Horned Frogs at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — No more zeroes.
That was Iowa State big man Solomon Young’s message to freshman guard Tre Jackson after the Cyclones’ 65-59 win Tuesday night over TCU.
Jackson notched career highs in points (18) and assists (5) but has struggled at times this season, going scoreless in eight games.
Hence Young’s pointed challenge to Jackson — a talented 6-1 shooter from Columbia, S.C.
“I’ve been with Solo a lot, talking with him a lot,” said Jackson, who faces the team that broke his nose five weeks ago — Oklahoma State — Saturday at 3 p.m. (ESPN) in Stillwater, Okla. “He’s been challenging me not to score zero points in a game, but I don’t really worry about that stuff. I just worry about winning. But he’s been challenging me to be the best that I can be on the court and to help this team win.”
Winning, of course, has been interrupted by lots of losing for the Cyclones (12-16, 5-10 Big 12), who are the only team in the league to be winless on the road.
The Cowboys (14-14, 4-11) provide ISU with the best chance to end that skid away from Hilton Coliseum but have shown toughness and determination despite their own struggles.
“I expect the game to be very physical,” said Jackson, who has drilled 7 of his last 13 3-point attempts. “It’s going to be won in the paint and you’ve got to get rebounds. You’ve got to do that on the defensive boards and the offensive boards and just try to get more possessions for us.”
Young’s career performance in the Cyclones’ 89-82 home win over Oklahoma State proves Jackson’s premise.
The 6-8 junior from Sacramento, Calif., poured in a career-high 27 points while grabbing nine rebounds. He’d scored in double figures just six times in the first 17 games this season but has tallied 10 or more points in seven of 10 games since his breakthrough against the Cowboys.
“I was just looking at what he’s averaging in our wins in league play and he’s playing really well,” ISU coach Steve Prohm said. “I think he’s playing with good confidence.”
So is Jackson, who is putting those previous zeroes — along with the protective mask he wore after suffering the broken nose — behind him.
“In a Big 12 game he makes four 3s,” Prohm said. “We were running some actions for him to get a couple after he made a couple. Defensively, he’s always been a guy on our team that can really guard the ball. He’s done that. He brings another guy that’s really got good toughness and effort. But he’s shooting it better now because that’s the one thing obviously we saw in recruiting, that he could really shoot. He’s a winning kid. I really believe that.”
But for the Cyclones to win, they must feed the paint. ISU scored its first 12 points inside while building an early lead against the Horned Frogs and Jackson expects that Young-led trend to inside-outside continue in Stillwater and beyond.
“He’s been proving it all season,” Jackson said. “Just being that factor down there. You know he can hit those hook shots and score in the paint very well, so we look to feed him at all times.”
****Freshman guard Caleb Grill’s well-documented shooting woes haven’t kept him off the floor because he works so hard. Grill played 24 minutes in Tuesday’s 65-59 win over TCU and he snatched away a conference game career-best two steals and had a key blocked shot in the closing seconds.
“His effort was great the other night,” Prohm said. “It was fun to see him compete that way and just play free and loose and make winning plays.”
****The Cyclones have won five of the past six games at Gallagher-Iba Arena after going winless there from 1988 to 2014.
****ISU seeks its first back-to-back wins since consecutive victories over Kansas City and Seton Hall on Dec. 4 and 8, 2019.