Monday’s 102-77 road loss to West Virginia was the most lopsided defeat the Iowa State Cyclones have suffered all year. The loss was a sharp juxtaposition to their exciting victory against TCU, in which senior forward Melvin Ejim scored 48 points.
Talk about a reality check.
The loss to the Mountaineers is a definite surprise, but it’s not so jarring as to cause concern for Cyclones fans.
The Cyclones’ other four losses this season have been very close, and so it’s almost inevitable for a team to get dominated at some point. This is especially probable in such a tough conference like the Big 12. And West Virginia might not be the most high profile team in the Big 12, but they have held their own. Last night, they shot the ball incredibly well, going 35-65 from the field and 13-22 from downtown. That kind of shooting is going to defeat anyone, and on a night in which the Cyclones shot just 4-23 from behind the arc, that made the margin all the more ugly.
Fortunately, the Cyclones get to return to the Hilton Coliseum for a bit, as they host Texas Tech on Saturday and Texas on Feb. 18. The Texas game will surely be one to watch, as the Cyclones will want to redeem themselves against the Longhorns, having lost to them by ten back in mid-January.
The Cyclones have already proven they can deal with adversity. During their fourteen game winning streak to start the season, they frequently played from behind. They’ve also managed to stop their only losing streak of the year thus far, beating Kansas State after losing three straight to Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. This prevalence of adversity will steel them from making this West Virginia defeat one that leads to a total collapse. Losses like these will actually help them come March, where teams need to be at their absolute best.
Iowa State has been a very underrated team this season, despite their high ranking. Ejim, Georges Niang, Deandre Kane, Dustin Hogue, Matt Thomas, and Monte Morris are all talented ball-handlers and shooters who share the rock better than anyone in the nation. They have a similar makeup to last year’s team, whose tournament time was cut short by a clutch three pointer by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.
This year, though, Iowa State should fare better. They have increased depth, and the tough contests they’ve experienced thus far in conference play will surely pay dividends when March Madness arrives.