Iowa State used a combination of grit, grind and fantastic defense to carve out a great win against number 16 Seton Hall on Sunday night. The Cyclones and Pirates scored a combined 17 points in the first 10 minutes of regulation before ultimately putting together a much more aesthetically pleasing rest of the game to settle on a 76-66 win in favor of the Clones.
Ultimately I felt this game - which looked more like a wrestling match, at times - was decided based on hard-nosed defense, Iowa State’s ability to get to the free throw line, and George Conditt’s overall performance.
In the previous meeting against Seton Hall, Iowa State allowed 84 points on on 54% shooting and gave up 8 made 3’s on 40% from behind the arc. The Cyclones did an excellent job of running Seton Hall off the 3 point line and keeping Myles Powell’s supporting cast in check. Powell, himself, shot 4-11 from deep, while the rest of Seton Hall combined to shoot 4-19 from the floor. Although Seton Hall made 8 3’s in both games, they shot 10 more shots this time around.
Individually, I thought Prentiss Nixon did a great job of keeping Myle Powell uncomfortable. The dynamic Seton Hall guard is a high volume shooter, averaging 22.9 PPG on just under 18 shots. Nixon put the clamps on and held Powell to 19 points via 7-20 from the field.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to formally and officially welcome George Conditt to the Big League. George has a knack for prancing up and down the floor, but no longer is he a deer-on-ice with slippery feet and even more slippery hands. Conditt has become a reliable and steady target for Tyrese Haliburton in the pick and roll.
He’s exhibited a much improved low post game. His footwork is cleaner, his counter moves timely, and his touch light and feathery. He is, without a doubt, the most improved player on this team (whatever that means). Oh and the below screenshot? Conditt turned this swarming double team into an up-and-under swooping layup on the opposite side of the floor.
Oh and did I mention his defense? George currently boasts a ridiculous 18.1% Block Percentage, which essentially means he blocks 18% of 2 point FGA when he is on the floor. Sheesh! Just for some context, Manute Bol holds the NBA single-season Block Percentage at 10.8%... So, while what George has done has occurred over a small sample size, it’s still pretty damn impressive. The guy just has a knack for blocking shots — and he does it in different ways, too. All too often, when Conditt’s man drags him to the top of the key to set a screen on a ball handler, guards will attempt to race by and beat George to the rim.
In the above Conditt’s responsibility is to “tag” the ball handler and quickly recover to his own man, a practice made much more difficult when the ball handler is looking to attack. George gets in front of Seton Hall guard Anthony Nelson — albeit for half a second — before turning and sprinting back to cover a diving Romaro Gill (great job by Tre Jackson to get in front). Conditt does a complete 180, and uses his length to block the shot. This is an elite play that no other Cyclone has in their bag.
Conditt will be in the starting lineup before we know it. Much like the promotion of Tyrese Haliburton last year, this will be an impactful move that may lead to some quicker starts right off the bat. Only time will tell if Solo’s ego can handle it. Somehow I don’t think this team will be throwing punches in practice this year...
Free Throw Disparity & Rasir Bolton
Iowa State won the free throw battle — how do I put this — by a lot on Sunday night. The Clones shot 33 free throws in comparison to the Pirates’... Wait for it... 12.
Ok, before we start to examine the questionable officiating, of which there was plenty to nitpick (on both sides), let’s talk about the emergence of Rasir Bolton’s ability to get to the rack.
Bolton shot 8-10 from the line, and is averaging 5.7 attempts per game. His natural instinct, like our astute commentator friend on TV pointed out, is to go right. Rasir constantly looks to push the pace and attack when he can, which is certainly better than having him stand around the 3 point line (24% from three. Yikes). Safe to say the goal for Bolton should always be to get to the rim.
Iowa State’s offense is better when Bolton is attacking and driving and dishing. Notice how Prohm uses him as the primary facilitator when Haliburton takes his (very short) breaks. The natural progression for his game is to keep his head up and look to dish after he gets in the lane.
Oh, and the officiating wasn’t good last night. I thought it stunk on both sides. It really felt like the refs were a step behind all night. Letting absolutely everything go at one point, then calling absolutely everything the next. Is that why Iowa State won/Seton Hall lost? I don’t think so, but figured it was noteworthy.
Bonus: Haliburton’s Shooting
One thing the announcers kept referring to during the game Sunday night was Tyrese Haliburton’s shooting improvement from last year. Let me end that narrative now:
Tyrese is actually shooting a poorer % from the field, from 3 point range, and inside the arc this season. Now, this decrease is almost certainly attributed to his increases in attempts from 4.8 to 11.8 shots per game. However, based on his increased usage, the slight dips in shooting percentages are actually quite good based on the massive jump he’s taken so far. So next time an announcer feels the need to talk about Haliburton’s efficiency, just picture me shaking my head... Or slamming Busch Lights... Whatever floats your boat!