AMES, IOWA — Through 28 games this season, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm had yet to write a letter on the team’s whiteboard following a game. The Cyclones have undoubtedly had good games and certainly strong stretches, but never one complete enough to warrant that first of four meaningful letters.
Saturday night, Prohm exited with a ‘T’ written in marker.
Iowa State outscored Kansas State by 18 in the game’s second half at Hilton Coliseum to pull away with an 80-61 confidence-building victory. More importantly, the win came as a collective effort with 24 bench points.
“This is the time of year you’ve got to have your team figured out. I’ve told our team all year, we’re trying to build a team,” Prohm said. “We finally put a ‘T.’ We have to spell [team], -E-, -A, -M, by the end of the year. I thought today everybody pulled for each other, everybody shared the ball.”
Iowa State led by as many as seven points in the first half in a back-and-forth period that ultimately ended with the Cyclones leading by one when Monte Morris connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
While the first 3 ½ minutes of the second half lacked defense, Iowa State began to take control with a 13-0 run, taking it from a 2-point deficit to an 11-point lead in a span of three minutes. Even when Kansas State narrowed that lead to six with just more than four minutes remaining, Iowa State countered.
Hallice Cooke hit a 3-pointer with 3:50 to play that jumpstarted a 9-0 run which gave the Cyclones a 15-point lead they would build upon in the final minutes.
Jameel McKay finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks off the bench while Cooke added 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.
“Hell, they played their tails off tonight,” Prohm said of the duo.
“My focus going into tonight’s game was as good as it has been all year. I just came out and just wanted to play with energy,” McKay said. “I [only had] two games left in Hilton and I want them to leave on a positive note. I wanted to win. I need people to know that I’m going to give my 100 percent effort every time I’m on the court and I want people to remember me for that.”
Matt Thomas scored 20 points in the win, hitting five 3s (all from the left corner). The victory comes when Iowa State is facing added urgency with only two games remaining in the regular season, including Senior Night on Monday.
Those factors helped the Cyclones play a complete game Saturday.
“You’ve got to get after it. You’ve got to embrace this,” said Georges Niang, who scored 17 points. “This team is never going to be together again once this season is over. So you might as well make the best of what you have and really enjoy everything that we’ve done and I think we’re doing that.”
Now Iowa State prepares for the final week of the regular season.
“Right now we’ve got to be all-in,” Prohm said. “We know our weakness, we know our strengths, but we know we’ve got to be a team and we’ve got to play together and we’ve got to play the right way.”