Cyclone Struggles

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand Iowa State's problems this season. Just look at the Cyclones' statistics.

In Big 12 play, ISU ranks 11th in the conference in scoring offense (61.7 ppg), field goal percentage (41.4), and three-point field goal percentage (31.2). The Cyclones have a star player in sophomore forward Craig Brackins (19.7 ppg), but their second-leading scorer (sophomore guard Diante Garrett) averages just 9.9 points per game.

Those meager offensive stats could mean big trouble for ISU tonight when the Cyclones (13-12, 2-8 Big 12) battle Kansas (20-5, 9-1) at Allen Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

"We're not scoring enough points," Iowa State coach Craig McDermott said on the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "When scoring comes tough to you, the margin for error in every part of the game is so slim, and that's really been the case for us throughout the conference season.

"When our defense has really been solid and we've rebounded pretty well, we've been in position to win games. When those areas haven't been great, then we've had a hard time scoring enough points to stay in games."

The Cyclones' fortunes aren't bolstered by their poor rebounding. ISU ranks 11th in rebounding in the conference during Big 12 play, averaging just 32.6 boards per game.

Iowa State will need hot shooting and a huge effort on the boards to stay with Kansas tonight. It won't be easy with the Jayhawks leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at 38.3 percent, rebound defense at 31.5 and rebound margin at +7.1. KU is also one of just two teams (along with Oklahoma) to shoot better than 50 percent in the Big 12 season.

In Iowa State's 86-67 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Cyclones squandered an early 15-5 lead. ISU went almost six minutes in the first half without a field goal, but still trailed by just two at halftime. However, the Cyclones opened the second half missing their first five shots and turning the ball over twice as OSU pulled away.

"There's portions of the game where we (played) very well," McDermott said. "You have to try to pull that out and make sure the guys understand the things that we did to put ourselves in position where we jumped out to a 15-5 lead. It was just a two-point game at halftime. There's a lot of good things that transpired the first half.

"At the same time, you have to be mature enough to look in the mirror and understand what you're not doing well enough and continue to try to fix those things as quick as you possibly can."

Iowa State will try to "fix those things" and score against the Jayhawks tonight. Brackins, who had 42 points in KU-ISU's last meeting in Ames on Jan. 24 (KU won, 82-67), will be counted on to carry the load once again.

So how do you improve offensively?

"You're constantly talking with your players about shot selection to make sure we're getting the best shot each time down the floor," McDermott said. "(We have) to make sure you get the ball exactly where you need to get it every possession. Obviously, we have a very talented player in Craig Brackins who needs to touch the ball as much as he possibly can. For the most part, that's happening."

McDermott is optimistic about ISU's future.

"We're not a team that's built to take the ball to the basket as well as some other teams in our league," he said. "That's something we've attempted to address in recruiting." Top Stories