Days after the Cyclones laid enough bricks to build a small turret inside Hilton Coliseum, they caught fire at practice.
Of course they did.
"It's always after a game like that you make them all," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said Thursday, referring to the Cyclones' midweek shootaround, a 45-minute clinic on three-point shooting.
"We took a ton of shots," Hoiberg said. "Got back to basics on shot footwork, really went back to what our summer workouts consisted of. We really tried to see the ball go in the basket to help build up the confidence; that's something right now I feel our guys need. Hopefully it improves in a big way."
Matched up against a rim protector in Joel Embiid on Monday, the Cyclones knew they'd have a difficult time manufacturing points in the paint. Had they made a respectable percentage of their three-point attempts, Iowa State might have won. Instead, the Cyclones went 4-for-25 (16 percent) in the 77-70 loss to the Jayhawks.
"I don't think there's gonna be another game where everyone doesn't make a shot," senior Melvin Ejim said. "We have a lot of great shooters, great players, it's kinda weird. I don't think it's something we'll see often and when we do we'll have to be able to be able to do something about it."
The high number of misses led to a high number of defensive rebounds for Kansas, which in turn resulted in a 53-36 Jayhawks advantage on the glass.
"There's a lot of rebounds but we miss a lot of shots," Ejim said. "I think once we continue to play our type of game, make shots and do what we do, we'll be fine. The rebound numbers will take care of ourselves."
It's a crooked number, 53-36, and one that should be taken with a grain of salt. But there are other stats we can point to to suggest the Cyclones are in a rebounding rut. Kansas missed 31 field goals and grabbed 15 offensive boards (some of those came on missed shots on the back end of foul shots). That's not good.
The Jayhawks' offensive rebounding percentage in the game was 42.9, meaning nearly half of their misses resulted in a second-chance opportunity.
Per the eye test, it was clear Iowa State couldn't handle the 7-foot Emiid, and the same was true in the prior game against Oklahoma's Ryan Spangler. In an 87-82 loss to the Sooners, Iowa State corralled just 68 percent of available defensive rebounds and 17.6 percent of offensive rebounds.
Below is the rebounding margin in Iowa State's four Big 12 games. While we just touched on how the stat needs to be taken with a grain, or pound, of salt, I thought it'd be worthwhile to illustrate how the Cyclones have fared on the board thus far in conference play.
Saturday's contest at Texas (3 p.m.) pits the Cyclones against one of the conference's best rebounding teams. The Longhorns (13-4, 2-2) are ninth nationally in rebounds per game at 42.2 and are third in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding percentage and second in defensive rebound percentage.
UT sophomore center Cam Ridley is more in the mold of Spangler than Embiid, and Ejim says there's no difference in whether you're going against a long-armed seven-footer (Embiid) or a 6-foot-9 guy with girth (Ridley, who checks in at 285 pounds).
"Rebounding's not a technique, it's who wants it more," Ejim said.
After entering college at 312 pounds, Ridley has cut some weight but his success as a shot-blocker (No. 43 in block rate and 2.2 per game) remains mildly surprising, as he doesn't fit the usual profile. Maybe that helps. Whereas opponents will size up Embiid while attacking the paint, and adjust the shot accordingly, they don't come at Ridley with the same respect.
Fellow sophomore Prince Ibeh doesn't have the minutes to qualify for a national list but blocks 16.3 percent of opponents' shot taken while he's in the game.
Texas' team block percentage of 7.7 is No. 51 nationally, which takes us back to what we began this game preview with: outside shooting. Can the Cyclones get back on track? In three conference games, they're shooting 26.3 percent from distance, last in the league. They'll need to hit their shots against the paint-packing Longhorns.
Projected Starters (ht, year) PPG, RPG, FG%
* denotes assists per game.
* denotes assists per game.
Matchup to Watch
Ridley vs. Georges Niang could be fun, each possessing a style that might make it hard for the other to guard.
The aformentioned Ridley is a low-post beast who's dangerous when getting enough touches. He's shooting 56.2 percent on two-point shots and draws 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes (watch out, Georges).
Niang, on the other hand, has a nice understanding of angles to complement an array of post moves and tricky footwork. He might not be able to jump over a soda can, but Niang finds ways to score under and around bigger bodies.
And after going 0-for-9 from three-point land and 4-for-11 on two-point shots against Kansas, Niang will likely come out with a smarter shot selection and with something to prove.
It's a matchup any old basketball soul can appreciate.
Texas' junior forward Jonathan Holmes will never get the credit he deserves, if only because the Longhorns have been so bad since he got to Austin, but Holmes is the lone holdover from the 2011 recruiting class (four transferred, the other left early for the NBA, only to go undrafted).
A versatile small-power forward, Holmes has a top-250 kenpom.com offensive rating and is a fierce rebounder, grabbing 21.3 percent of available defensive boards. Holmes is also blocking 6.6 percent of opposing shots taken while he's on the court.