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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Iowa

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Thomas and Morris look to go 4-0 against the Hawks, Mitrou-Long 4-1.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska Omaha at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Ah yes, the annual Cy-Hawk Hardwood Showdown. The two teams took their frustrations out on lesser opponents on Monday and took some time to tune up for their in-state rivals.

Monte Morris and Matt Thomas are looking to put the finishing touches on a perfect career record against Iowa, while Nazareth Mitrou-Long looks to move to 4-1 against the Hawks in his victory lap (see feature image above). If you missed last season’s historic comeback in Ames, we’ve got you fully covered with both a game and Twitter recap of the events.

Last Time Out

Monday night served as a “get right” game for the Cyclones as they cashed in 15 threes in a dominant win over Omaha. Meanwhile, off to the east, the Hawkeyes were finding some confidence of their own as they took Stetson behind the woodshed.

Both teams have been floundering a bit as of late, as Iowa State struggled to find its offense in back-to-back losses against Cincinnati, while Iowa has lost four of its last five. This stretch included a 98-89 home loss to that same Omaha team that was beat soundly in Hilton on Monday, as well as a 33-point beat down at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers.

About Iowa

Peter Jok is really good. He’s more than capable of going Uthoff for a half simply because of volume, as he shoots more than 35% of possessions where he’s on the floor. Outside of Jok, a majority of the offense should come from guys like freshmen Cordell Pemsl and Jordan Bohannon, and potentially Nick Baer, as their second-best offensive weapon, Tyler Cook, is out with a hand injury.

Iowa plays at a tempo that Iowa State fans should be familiar with, averaging 74.7 possessions (22nd), while the Cyclones are middle of the pack at an even 70 (167th). They feature the 42nd most efficient offense (largely on the back of Peter Jok), but the problem for the Hawks this year has been there 176th-ranked defense. Iowa has only held two opponents below 70 points and has given up more than 90 on four separate occasions already this season.

Iowa State should be able to get theirs if they’re willing to push the ball in transition and run crisp, offensive sets with plenty of movement in the half court, as they’re not facing the size and length that presented problems against Gonzaga and Cincinnati. On the defensive end, if Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie can hold their own against Pemsl, Iowa State should be able to contain the secondary scoring options for Iowa. Where they could run into problems is if their post doubles and guard check downs are not timely and efficient, as Pemsl possesses the passing ability that could open up looks for Bohannon and Jok on the perimeter.

Players to Watch

I could say Peter Jok, but I won’t. He’s going to get his shots and points and will likely hit shots that frustrate Iowa State fans. He’s capable of hitting shots with a hand in his face and pulling up from anywhere inside 30 feet. The players to watch will be guys like Bohannon and Pemsl. If Iowa State can shut down the peripheral scoring options, they should be able to outscore the Hawks, given their porous defense. If Thomas starts off on Jok (as I would expect), look to see how Naz and Monte handle Bohannon and Bowie, and how Holden handles Pemsl. Their defense will be key in shutting down Iowa.

What to Expect

I expect to see a lot of tempo and a lot of scoring. Iowa State has been great at holding teams to poor shooting percentages and low point totals, but Iowa will look to run at every opportunity to get high percentage shots as early as they can. If Iowa State can contain the Hawkeyes in transition, they should win this game going away, but if they let Iowa run and get open looks in transition, this game will be closer than Iowa State fans would like to see it.

Offensively, I’d expect Iowa State to continue the success they found against Omaha. Better shot selection will be key to beating Iowa. If they continue to make the extra pass, move the ball around, and penetrate/kick, they’ll find open looks because Iowa’s defense isn’t solid. The cliche oftentimes is “pass up a good look to get a better look,” and that strategy would be extremely useful against a team that gives up a lot of great looks.

Pick 3

  1. Peter Jok goes off for 30+
  2. Naz breaks out of his slump with 20 points and 4 threes
  3. Morris has a double-double

#25 Iowa State - 82; Iowa - 74

Game Notes

Game Time: Thursday, Dec. 8th, 7:00 p.m. CST

Line: Iowa State -6; O/U - 157

The Foe: Black Heart Gold Pants

TV/Webcast: ESPN 2/WatchESPN (Dave Benetti, Jim Calhoun)

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio App (John Walters, Eric Heft)

Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here