Facing ‘learning curve,’ Iowa State men’s basketball takes on No. 3 Iowa

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AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm had a message for his team this week.

Players only get a handful of “moment” games in their careers.

When Iowa State (1-1) travels to Iowa City on Friday to play Iowa (4-0) at 8 p.m. (BTN), the Cyclones will have an opportunity to play in a “moment” game against the No. 3 team in the country.

“You only get so many chances to play games like these,” Prohm said. “They’re really good and we have to go over there and play well.”

The Cyclones still are developing chemistry and cohesiveness with seven new faces and having played just two games this season. They might need to do a little more than play well against Luka Garza and company, however.

“They’re really good and that’s a credit to Fran and it’s a credit to those guys,” Prohm said. “They had a really good team last year and they brought all five starters back. When you bring guys back and you’re old, you have a chance to be really special at this level.”

Prohm knows that fact well. His best teams have been spearheaded by the likes of Geroges Niang, Monte Morris, Matt Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long in 2016 as well as two years ago with Nick Weiler-Babb, Marial Shayok and Mike Jacobson.

Iowa State is trying to build back up to that.

“You have to have great basketball character,” Prohm said. “That’s the No. 1 thing I talked to our team about. We need connection, investment and trust. We have great kids. We just got our grades from last semester and they were really good — we have great kids. Now we need basketball character as well.


“I told them, ‘if there are two things you can always take with you, it’s humility and wisdom.’ They need basketball character to understand that it’s Dec. 10, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we have new guys, we have young guys and there haven’t been the scrimmages and exhibitions.

“If you look at the teams with a lot of returning guys, they’re playing well right now. And teams that have a lot of new guys — whether it’s Duke or whoever else — they’re going through a learning curve. That’s understood but your basketball character has to be really good so you understand that you need to learn, grow and get better.”

Iowa will provide plenty of learning opportunities for the Cyclones.

“They have a lot of different factors on that team,” Jalen Coleman-Lands said. “They have shooters and obviously Garza inside. We’ll need a well-rounded effort on the defensive end. We’ll need to be disciplined to say the least.”

Solomon Young, who has been Iowa State’s most productive player through two games, said the key for him is to limit Garza’s touches.

It won’t be just Young who will have his hands full on the defensive end. Garza is surrounded by very capable shooters in Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp and C.J. Fredrick.

“When you look at Bohannon, Weiskamp and Fredrick — some people call them shooters, but to me, I think they’re ball guards,” Prohm said. “Those three guys are just really good basketball players and they have experience. They had 17 3-pointers between the three of them the other day (in a 93-80 win over North Carolina).

“Our activity on the defensive end is going to be the biggest key. We have to be active on the ball and make them bounce it. You’re going to be in disadvantaged situations against them a lot because when you bring help to Garza, you have to be able to recover and run them off the line. You’re going to be in scramble situations. But if you’re going to be good defensively against them, you have to make multiple effort plays every possession.”

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Ben Visser, correspondent

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