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RECAP: Jok Blocked

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A stagnant Cyclone offense led to a poor performance and a disappointing 78-64 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most exciting aspects of the game installed at Iowa State by former Head Coach Fred Hoiberg and maintained by current Head Coach Steve Prohm is a fast-paced, pass-first offense. Unfortunately, the pass-first ideology has disappeared at times this year, and Thursday night’s loss to Iowa 78-64 in Carver Hawkeye Arena was no exception.

Senior Matt Thomas started out aggressive for the Cyclones early on, scoring 7 points in the first 5 minutes before receiving his second foul of the half and being forced to sit on the bench. Iowa State was lost without Matty Ice, as the Hawkeyes scored 10 unanswered points while Thomas watched. The Cyclones missed 5 straight shots and turned the ball over 3 times in the span of 4 minutes before Naz Mitrou-Long was able to force a foul driving in the lane. After hitting both free throws, Iowa State was down 23-14 just 10 minutes into the game.

Peter Jok soon went off for the Hawks, making seemingly impossible shots look easy to help carry them to a 30-17 lead when the D-Train started to roll through, as Deonte Burton put up 6 points and grabbed 2 boards and a steal in just 2 minutes. The Cyclones forced multiple turnovers, but an errant pass by Mitrou-Long and a missed layup a few minutes later didn’t help the Cyclones put a dent in the deficit, heading into Iowa’s large lead. The sloppy offense by the Cyclones led to some easy buckets in transition for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa State had a difficult time dissecting the zone in the first half, shooting just 34% from the field with just 3 assists and hitting just 20% of threes while Iowa was the opposite, shooting 60% from both the field and from deep. The lone bright spot for Iowa State in the half was freshman Solomon Young, who, despite not playing many minutes, provided solid hustle and defense in the paint.

Donovan Jackson ended the half in a way befitting the first-half Cyclone offense, air balling a wide-open corner three by a few feet. Heading into the locker room, Iowa held a 44-29 advantage over the stagnant Cyclones.

Burton did his best to get Iowa State’s offense rolling in the second half with a nice put-back dunk early. Iowa State moved the ball much better than they did in the first half, and after a nice assist to Young for an easy dunk, things appeared to be looking up for the Cyclones until Jok drilled a step-back three to give Iowa a 55-39 lead.

Nick Weiler-Babb lit a much needed fire for the Cyclones shortly after, hitting a three off an assist from Monte Morris and coasting to an easy layup seconds later after a forced steal. After a timeout by the Hawks to slow the 7-0 run by the Cyclones, Weiler-Babb went iso and hit a 10-foot jumper. A possession later, Weiler-Babb drew in the Iowa defense and kicked it out to Darrell Bowie for a wide open three to make it 58-51. The most surprising fact about this run was that starters Burton, Mitrou-Long, and Holden were all on the bench.

After a timeout, Coach Prohm elected to bring in the seniors. While Mitrou-Long was able to drive and hit an easy layup, the hustle, the defense and the offense all disappeared, and the Hawks were able to do whatever they wanted at will. Heading into the under-4 timeout, Iowa was coming off a 9-0 run and the Cyclones were losing 67-53. Mitrou-Long drilled a three in the corner out of the timeout but that was unable to spark any life in Iowa State. After some garbage time, the final buzzer rang with Iowa State falling in embarrassing fashion, 78-64.

This is the third time in just 9 games this season that Iowa State has had single-digit assists, a problem that occurred just once all of last season. The Cyclones shot just 35.7% from the field while allowing Iowa to hit 47%. Matt Thomas led the team in scoring with 14 points while 4 other Cyclones had 10 points each. Jok led the way for the Hawks, scoring 23 points.

The most disappointing takeaway from this game was the senior leadership, or lack thereof. While this has already been an issue in close-game situations this year, the best offense and defense on the court tonight was run when there were just 2-3 seniors on the court at a time. It’s a great attribute to want the ball in pressure situations, but not a great attribute to want to shoot every time you touch the ball.

Iowa State has just two more non-conference games to turn their offensive issues around before conference season begins.

The Cyclones have 9 days to regroup before their next game against the Drake Bulldogs in the Hy-Vee Classic on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.