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How the Game Was Won: Kansas State

How the game came down to execution behind the 3-point line.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing loss to TCU last week in Ames, Iowa State looked to bounce back from what was probably their worst game of the season. Kansas State, on the other hand, looked to put an exclamation point on the Big 12 title race.

In this week’s edition of How the Game was Won I examine the 14-24 performance from behind the arc that propelled Iowa State to a 14 point win and spelled D-O-O-M for Kansas State.

Three-Point Barrage

Iowa State came into Saturday’s game shooting 36% from 3, good for 101st in the country and 2nd in the conference. But what gives when it comes to shooting just under 60% against a team that holds opponents to 31% from behind the arc? The answer? Well-executed offense, clean spacing, and a little bit of luck.

The Iowa State offense is predicated on spreading out opponents and getting drive-and-kick 3’s. So, what does an ideal possession look like? How about a paint touch leading to a corner three:

I thought Iowa State did an excellent job of attacking mismatches as the game went on. Here you see Shayok drawing attention away from THT and forcing the slower Dean Wade to close out on an open corner 3. Note that penetration draws 3 defenders to Shayok. Placing four 3 point shooters around a post presence has forced teams to stretch their defense and guard the width of the floor. This is exactly why this Iowa State team has been so good on offense all year.

It just wasn’t poor Dean Wade’s day. The Kansas State Senior was mostly ineffective against the smaller Horton Tucker on offense (9 points on 3-6 shooting). Apparently it was later revealed that he was playing through a foot injury. He just couldn’t seem to get it going on either end, and the Cyclones certainly took advantage. Again, this is why Iowa State presents problems for so many teams. They are a match-up nightmare, especially if these shots are falling:

As the game went on and KSU began to pay more and more attention to the 3 point line, Iowa State did an excellent job of taking what was given to them. THT does a great job staying in control and keeping his head up to find Lard for the dagger here. This is a play we haven’t always seen from him this year, as his tendencies include putting his head down and barreling into trouble. He is at his best when he shimmies into the lane with his eyes up, using his strength to keep smaller guards on his hip, which causes the defense to collapse. Heady play from the freshman.

I can’t say enough how talented Talen Horton Tucker is. He had a tough start to conference play and is inconsistent, at times, but he adds another option that makes Iowa State that much harder to defend. I have no doubt that if Iowa State makes a run in March, he will be a huge part of the reason why. I would even go as far to say that he and Wigginton are the most important players on the offensive side of the ball.

Speaking of, here are Lindell’s splits in wins and losses this season. Note the absurd FG% difference and PPG, which isn’t listed, but calculates out to 15 PPG in wins and 7 PPG in losses.

So what did he end up shooting against K-State? 23 points on 78% shooting from the field.

Bruce Weber lamented during his post game press conference about the fact that Iowa State just seemed to make everything. Every time Kansas State would get within striking distance or the momentum would begin to shift in their favor the Cyclones would respond in a huge way, particularly THT or Wigginton. Winning on the road in an environment as hostile as Bramlage Coliseum requires tremendous discipline and mental focus, and I thought the Cyclones played a mostly fundamentally sound game. They made the right passes, defended well, and answered every challenge K-State threw at them. But in all honesty, if you shoot just under 60% from three and make 14 of them, you’re gonna win most games.

Some Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Lard’s technical was a head-scratcher. He does that flex and stare every game. Unless he was blatantly told he would be T’d up if he did it, I have no idea why it was called. Refs are going to miss calls both ways throughout the course of a game and season, but the least they can do is be consistent.
  • Speaking of Lard, he’s come a long way from being in the doghouse at the beginning of the year. Now, he’s part of the crunch time lineup and is finding a way to stay on the floor.
  • Nick Weiler-Babb played all 40 minutes on Saturday, but struggled to find his rhythm on the offensive end of the floor: 2-8 from the floor, 6 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover.
  • Tyrese Halliburton is producing a staggering 137.5 offensive rating in conference play. For reference, the highest rating since 2009 is 145.96. Even Georges never got above 120 during his 4 year stint as a Cyclone. Strangely enough, if I were scheming up a way to defend the Cyclones, the number one bet is staying at home and forcing Halliburton to finish around the rim. All too often he penetrates and looks to pass too eagerly, neglecting easy shots in the lane.
  • I believe a team has fouled Lindell Wigginton in 5 straight games now from behind the arc. His ability to hang and float during his jumper is not forgiving for defenders who close-out with even the slightest bit of carelessness.
  • I could throw stats out talking about the balance this team has shown over the course of the season, or the inconsistencies they’ve shown with executing against a zone, but March tends to favor those who peak at the right time. This final stretch of games will go a long way in shaping the team we will see attempt to make a run to Minneapolis, and I have faith in Prohm’s ability to prepare and deliver.

Strap in, Cyclone fans. It’s gonna be a bumpy finish.