Sometimes following such a raw and emotional victory, the best thing to do is get back on the floor. That's what #4 Iowa State will do today as the Cyclones host an awful Arkansas Pine Bluff team and look to move to 9-0.
Iowa State has scheduled quick turn-arounds following the Iowa game in recent years and this year is no different. These types of contests can often be dangerous, especially after enduring a 40-minute battle against one their biggest rivals, but the Golden Lions are one of the worst teams in the country and this shouldn't be much of a contest.
Even if Iowa State sleepwalks through this game, they should still win comfortably. Arkansas Pine Bluff is 2-7 on the year and 6 of their 7 losses have come by 20 points or more. If there's something that this team does well, I'm not seeing it. So I won't even bother breaking down today's opponent (not that I know anything about them anyway), but will instead focus on what I'd like to see from today's game.
Bounce Back Efforts
Both Abdel Nader and Naz Mitrou-Long need to restore some confidence. Nader played a season-low 13 minutes in Thursday's win, scoring only 2 points on 1-5 shooting and grabbing only 2 rebounds. Nader was equally ineffective on the defensive end of the floor, struggling to contain both Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok. Nader has been arguably one of Iowa State's most consistent performers this season, but on Thursday night, Steve Prohm simply couldn't keep him on the floor.
For Mitrou-Long, it's all about finding his shooting rhythm. Despite off-season hip surgery, he's logging a career high in minutes and in his last 4 games, he's 5-30 from outside. I went back and watched the games against Iowa, Buffalo and Illinois and made a point of focusing on Mitrou-Long to see if anything looked different. From my amateur assessment, the upper body looked fine and his lift didn't appear to be impacted. Throughout his career, Mitrou-Long has showed that he can hit the difficult shots and doesn't always need his hips squared to the basket. He rushed a few shots in these last four games, but when you have the resume that Mitrou-Long has, you can live with that. To be honest, it just looks like he needs to rediscover his rhythm.
Matt Thomas had a career night against Iowa, but we've seen him have efforts like that before. What we really haven't seen is his ability to sustain his hot shooting over the course of several games. Asking Thomas to knock down 6 treys each night is unrealistic, but he has to be able to provide scoring off the bench.
On Thursday, Thomas had the look. You know it when you see it. Mitrou-Long has it from time to time, Tyrus McGee always seemed to have it and Scott Christopherson was born with it. Thomas came off the bench and immediately started firing. He didn't second-guess or hesitate. He just squared up and shot the ball. Now can he do it again?
The Little Things
This might be asking a bit much following Thursday's win, especially because I think we might not see Iowa State's best effort, but this is an opportunity to work on the little things. Specifically, I want to see if the Cyclones' second half effort can carry over to today.
After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, Iowa State had only 1 second half turnover on Thursday. I'll be curious to see what the defensive effort looks like. Can Nader turn in a shut down performance? Can Monte Morris and Hallice Cooke continue to create havoc on the perimeter?
There's probably going to be uninspired possessions throughout points of this game. It's natural and expected. These guys aren't robots and basketball is an emotional game. Luckily, that won't really matter as Arkansas Pine Bluff is that bad.
This is the last game before Deonte Burton is eligible and I imagine guys like Thomas and Cooke will be eager to show the staff that their minutes shouldn't be cut going forward.
Iowa State 85 - Arkansas Pine Bluff 57
Tip: 5 PM CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here