Well let's cut to the chase and state the obvious; as far as Iowa State's conference championship hopes go, Saturday's set back in Lubbock wasn't good. The Cyclones have only played 6 of 18 league games and sit just one game back of Kansas in the standings, but after an embarrassing 78-73 defeat at the hands of the Big 12's worst team, things just got substantially more difficult going forward.
Perhaps even more frustrating than that abomination of a performance is that we've seen it before. Against Maryland, South Carolina, Baylor and now Texas Tech, Iowa State managed to dig themselves a major early hole and in each of those contests it ultimately cost them. Sure, this team has proven that no lead against them is safe as they battled back and had chances to win all of those games, but going forward, this Cyclone team can ill-afford to keep putting themselves in these positions.
Given how awful of a team offensively Texas Tech has been (they came into this game as the worst shooting team in the conference), it would be easy to chalk up the Red Raiders' performance on Saturday to dumb luck (and maybe it was), but regardless of how inept an opponent may be, at this level you simply can't afford to give the opposition open shot after open shot.
Tubby Smith's crew was red-hot from outside, burying 7-14 from deep in the first half en route to building a 19-point lead. Iowa State managed to cut it to 11 going into the break, but the damage had been done. The Cyclones simply lost track of Tech shooters repeatedly and had no answers for the curl-screens that set up those looks. Smith remarked in the post-game that it wasn't Tech's plan to shoot that many shots from outside, but they were open, so they kept shooting.
On the other side, Iowa State simply couldn't buy a bucket from deep, hitting just 6-31 from outside, which included a 1-7 showing from Naz Long, 1-6 from Georges Niang, 2-8 from Matt Thomas and 0-4 from Bryce Dejean-Jones. You might be asking yourself, "well why did they attempt 31 threes if they weren't making them?" and you'd be within reason to ask such a question. The simplest answer I suppose is "Hoiball". We're all too familiar with the beauty of this style of play when things are going well, but when the shots aren't falling, things can go south in a hurry.
Fred Hoiberg sent a message in the first half, benching Monte Morris and Naz Long. Clayton Custer saw his first action in conference play as a result and filled in admirably along with Matt Thomas to key a run to get Iowa State down only 11 at the end of the half.
Morris heard the message loud and clear, responding with 20 points in the second half and had a chance to make it 23, but missed a 3-point attempt in the closing seconds that would have tied the game. Thomas joined Morris in double figures with 12 points and after banking in a trey in the final minute, Niang ended the game with 10 points of his own. Jameel McKay nearly recorded a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds and Dustin Hogue wasn't far off with 8 points and 7 rebounds. Dejean-Jones finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds and Long record just 5 points in only 17 minutes.
As a team, Iowa State shot 42.9% from the floor and finally put it together at the charity stripe, hitting 13-17 (76.5%) for the game. The Cyclones also turned it over 10 times, which is a solid number on the road. But that's about where the positives end.
The Cyclones only dished out 10 assists, which is nearly half of their average and there's that aforementioned 6-31 from 3-point range. Iowa State let their shortcomings on the defensive end bleed over into the offensive side of things as the ball movement stopped and they simply became content to be chuckers.
I don't know that there's any major wholesale changes that need to be made, but I was surprised to see that Abdel Nader only played 11 minutes, especially coming off a marvelous performance off the bench against Kansas State. Nader has proven to be a spark plug on the road and I would have thought early on as Tech was building their lead that Nader would have been inserted in the line up to stop the bleeding.
In any event, Fred Hoiberg will have to find a way to rally this group quickly as a very talented Texas team comes to Ames on Monday night looking to score a major road win. That game will air at 8 PM CST on ESPN.