Well, let's not mince words here. Last night's 80-71 loss to Iowa flat out sucked. Iowa State was outworked, out-hustled, and pretty much out-everythinged. Fran McCaffery's team fed off the energy of the home crowd and outside of about a five-minute span to end the first half, never allowed Iowa State to develop any kind of rhythm or momentum. Burn the game film. Yell, kick and scream. Whatever. Cyclone fans don't care, but they don't want to see that again.
Ultimately, Fred Hoiberg has a lot to work with here and has to rally this team and move forward. There will be a quick turnaround as the Cyclones return to action Sunday night against Nebraska-Omaha. Nobody wanted or even planned to have this team sitting at 6-3 after nine games, but it's all about what this team does going forward. Just one year ago, Iowa State sat at 5-3 after a loss to Michigan, then won their next seven games including their first two in Big 12 play. Four games remain on the non-conference schedule with only Drake presenting a real test. Go into Big 12 play at 10-3 and we're okay. Go in at 9-4...well, let's not go there.
I don't want to dwell on last night's game too much, but I do have a few thoughts and then we can all go back to drinking away the rest of our weekends.
Point Guard Play and Turnovers
I imagine this isn't going to be a popular sentiment, but Korie Lucious isn't the problem. Don't get me wrong, his play is a problem, but I'm not going to put all of Iowa State's 19 turnovers on him. First off, let's get this out of the way; Will Clyburn is not Evan Turner and should not be handling the ball. I realize that Fred is using Clyburn this way out of necessity. After all, Lucious can't play 40 minutes every night, but it's been glaringly obvious the last few games just how bad we are when Clyburn is running the show. The offense goes stagnant, nobody moves and Clyburn just isn't a very good ball handler. I get that Naz Long is just a freshman and at times has been a little shaky, but it's time to get him back in the line up and take our lumps with him when Lucious needs a breather. On that note as well, a big thank you again to Bubu Palo for sexually assaulting a young lady earlier this year...allegedly.
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, onto the reason I took the Lord's name in vain in creatively venomous ways last night. Korie, Korie, Korie. What are we going to do with you? 40 turnovers in nine games? That's 4.44 per game. That's over four extra possessions Lucious is single-handedly giving the opposition every night out. That just has to stop. Now, of the seven give-aways Lucious had last night, I can live with about 2-3 of those. There were a few pick-and-rolls where I thought Lucious made the right play, but either Percy Gibson or Georges Niang just couldn't handle the pass for whatever reason. Beyond that, Lucious needs to pull his head out of his ass. You can hear the frustration in The Mayor's voice during post game interviews, but what can he do? Our offense just doesn't work when Lucious isn't in there so living with his play is the only option this team really has. That doesn't make it any more acceptable though. I don't know what else Fred can tell Lucious at this point beyond, "quit fucking up so much".
Someone Forgot To Pack the Defense
A step too slow. Poor rotations. Bad in transition. No communication. The list goes on. That was the worst defensive performance I've seen from Iowa State in some time. Sure Cincinnati and UNLV scored about the same amount of points, but the tempo of those games dictated that type of scoring. Last night was just poor. Aaron White is a good ball player but you can't let him beat you off the dribble from the perimeter. If you let a guy with a little quickness like Anthony Clemmons get into the lane, he's going to make plays. Simply put, if you're not going to play defense on the road, you're not going to win. If there is one positive here, Chris Babb played to his reputation, eliminating Roy Devyn Marble from the game offensively, holding him to 2-10 shooting and 0-4 from outside and just 6 points overall. Everyone else needs to play with that type of intensity.
At Least We Have A Bench
It was good to see Georges Niang reappear. Niang was the sole reason Iowa State managed to hang around and eventually get back into the game in the first half. He forced some shots in the second half, but his first half play showed the type of player he can be. Tyrus McGee and Percy Gibson also had good efforts off the bench. The three combined for 39 points 16 rebounds and no turnovers. Korie Lucious, Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim on the other hand, combined for 18 points on 5-20 shooting with only 8 rebounds and 15 turnovers. I will give Ejim somewhat of a pass as foul trouble limited his minutes and impact on the game, same with Anthony Booker.
Bold Prediction Going Forward
Here are Iowa State's next 10 games:
Drake at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines
@ Missouri-Kansas City
@ Texas Tech
I'm calling for Iowa State to go at least 8-2 over that stretch and potentially 9-1. Those first six Big 12 games do not look as daunting as originally thought. Yes, Texas could get Myck Kabongo back by then and West Virginia and Kansas State will not be push overs at home, but I see a 4-2 or 5-1 start to conference play there.