Fresh off an 11-point loss and a laborious practice predicated on patching a defense that has proven inconsistent, Fred Hoiberg offered his players a surprise Wednesday when they huddled at the end of practice.
“All right, let’s get out of here,” Hoiberg told the team. “We’re going bowling.”
The night spent across the street bowling, aside from proving Hoiberg reigns supreme, provided an excursion from the fatiguing talk of how Iowa State’s defense takes a step forward toward consistency. After the Cyclones held Texas Tech to an abnormally low 38 points last Saturday, it followed the defensive effort up by allowing Oklahoma 94 points in a loss Monday.
Iowa State currently sits tied for third in the Big 12 with West Virginia, its opponent Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Yet even as the Cyclones feel pressure from various corners, they are 7-4 and still in position to make advancements.
“When you hit some tough times, when the adversity sets in, sometimes you have to have a balance as the coach and what you want to do with your team to keep them motivated, to keep them going,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got a lot of season left, we’ve got a good times left.
“There’s some things we need to correct, there’s no doubt about it, but the world didn’t come to an end, the sky didn’t fall apart after the last game.”
Hence the bowling.
“I feel like it was much-needed just to get away from dribbling a basketball and bonding with your teammates on a whole different level of things,” guard Monte Morris said. “Kicking back and watching guys show their skills in different kinds of things.”
Amidst Iowa State’s road struggles in conference play (1-4), West Virginia is the lone team the Cyclones have found success against on the road, beating the Mountaineers 74-72 in early January. In that game, Iowa State committed 18 turnovers, but managed to hold West Virginia to a 32.4 percent clip from the field.
The Cyclones handled the Mountaineers’ press well at times in Morgantown, W. Va., and will now welcome the Mountaineers to Hilton attempting to do the same.
“Press Virginia, is that what they’re called?” forward Georges Niang said. “That’s what makes them tough. You really can’t simulate what they do because it’s just so random and run and jump. Those guys are so gritty. You have to give them credit for that. They’re going to try to come in and out-tough you and at home you just can’t let that happen, because if you do you could be down to the wire with that team.”