Peterson: Lindell Wigginton will have to be good again, if ISU wants to beat Kansas on Tuesday

The Big 12 Conference meat-grinder has taken its toll on Iowa State this season, and it’s starting to chew its way through the early frontrunners, one of which was Kansas.

The Cyclones, who have posted decisive victories over the past two ranked teams they’ve played at home, will be riding great momentum when they host the 13th-ranked Jayhawks on Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

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Getting to know: Iowa State basketball

Iowa State’s most recent win was on Saturday when it led wire to wire on the way to an 88-80 victory over No. 17 Oklahoma.

“I’m thinking about it,” Prohm said. “I’m trying to work through it right now in my mind of how I want it to develop. I still want Lindell in attack mode, he’ll still have the ball in his hands a lot. He just has to continue to grow in that position. If Nick is able to play, he’ll be able to step in and help us. It’s just about winning, whatever we think gives us the best opportunity to win.”

The win was the third of the season over a ranked team for the Cyclones, and all three have been at home. It’s when Iowa State hits the road that it has its problems; the Cyclones are 1-7 in true road games this year.

“I met with him [Sunday] after we had our film session and just talked to him more about trying to really watch some tape with him [Monday] at some point about what he needs to look for in different actions so he understands because he’s learning this position on the fly,” Prohm said. “I think he can become very good at it. I think he has a great deal of confidence in himself.

Kansas basketball: Iowa State rematch, where to tune in

“I wish I knew the reason,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “We’d have a better road record if I did. But we’ve just got to keep searching.”

The Cyclones (13-11, 4-8 Big 12) are still at the bottom of the conference standings but have been encouraged by their recent results as they head to the final third of the Big 12 season.

“This is where you’ve got to play your best basketball,” Prohm said. “There’s stories all over the place of teams finishing strong in conference play and making a great push. But at some point, you’ve got to be tough enough to go win on the road.”

The first thing Iowa State has to focus on is Kansas, the Big 12’s lingering elephant in the room. The Jayhawks have won 13 straight conference championships but have struggled some this season, including Saturday when they were dominated in an 80-64 loss at Baylor.

Wigginton has been Iowa State’s primary point guard since the West Virginia game. Nick Weiler-Babb has been sidelined with tendinitis in his knee, but Prohm said Weiler-Babb is questionable for the West Virginia game.

Wigginton, Lard emerging for rebuilding Cyclones

The setback was the second in four games for Kansas (19-6, 8-4) and pushed the Jayhawks down to second place in the conference standings, looking up at No. 7 Texas Tech.

The Jayhawks also were strong in the paint in that first meeting. I expect Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot to start again. Both need to stay out of foul trouble and crash the glass. Finally, the Jayhawks must use their defense to create offense. The Crimson and Blue guys scored 14 points off 17 ‘Clone turnovers in January. We need to see more of that to help bring home the victory.

Iowa State’s Cameron Lard gets Big 12 weekly honor

Kansas coach Bill Self admitted after Saturday’s loss to Baylor that his team is still not where it needs to be as far as chemistry and execution.

The Cyclones are coming off a big win over Oklahoma and their All-World freshman guard. Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton and Donovan Jackson held the Sooners’ freshman to 22 points and just one 3-pointer. Wigginton contributed 26 points in the 8-point win. That’s 10 points above his season average. Jackson and Cameron Lard chipped in 19 points apiece.

“We know what we need to do to be pretty good and have a chance to really compete at a relatively high level,” Self said. “The players haven’t quite bought into that totally yet. It’s getting late in the season to see if they are going to buy into it.”

Until Saturday, the Kansas basketball team has played great on the road this season. Hall of Fame coach Bill Self’s guys had won 4 of 5 Big 12 contests away from the fieldhouse going into Waco.  We need to completely forget about that trip to the Ferrell Center and focus on Hilton Coliseum and a very good Iowa State team.

Kansas is just 4-2 on the road in Big 12 play this year and, in essence, is stepping into a lion’s den as it travels to Ames to play a team that has won five straight home conference games.

“It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do to be good. This is what we need to do in order to give us the best chance,’” Self said about his team’s play.

“I’m tired of rewarding guys to start whenever I feel like those things are not taking place. It doesn’t have anything to do with making shots. You can miss all the shots you want to. At least from an intangible standpoint, give us stuff.”

In Kansas’ Big 12 championships streak, the Jayhawks have never been below second place on Feb. 10. Kansas has sat second five times (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013) yet overcame and went on to win outright or share the conference title in all five of those years.

A victory on Tuesday would garner Kansas its 20th win for a 29th consecutive season, beginning in 1989-90, extending a run that is the longest active streak in the NCAA.

Iowa State won 4 of the nine games following their trip to Allen Fieldhouse. The Cyclones are coming off a huge upset of Oklahoma Saturday.  Don’t think Hilton Magic took a vacation just because the Clones are only 2-games over .500 and 4-8 on the Big 12 season. In addition to the victory over OU, they knocked off West Virginia two weeks ago and defeated Texas Tech on January 20.

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ISU coach says the talented freshman could play both guard positions Tuesday against Kansas. Randy Peterson / The Register

Newman’s big day on offense and turnovers were the difference in that January win. The Jayhawks also scored 14 points on 17 Iowa State turnovers. Bill Self’s guys need Newman to score in Ames. That will take some pressure off Devonte Graham and help this team bring home their 9th conference victory of the season.

AMES, Ia. — Lindell Wigginton was the best player on the floor, the last time Iowa State played Kansas — and that’s saying something. A freshman outperforming all the Jayhawks in their home arena?

Just over a month ago, the Kansas basketball team held on for a 5-point victory over Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse. Since that game, the Cyclones have been on a roller coaster ride similar to the Jayhawks. Bill Self’s guys have gone 6-3 since that first meeting including Saturday’s loss to the Bears at Baylor.

Absolutely, but Tuesday’s return game won’t be the same from that type of role-playing aspect.

Iowa State’s talented freshman roamed the offensive end, free to do almost what he wanted last month in Allen Fieldhouse. He did it very well — to the tune of 27 points in the Cyclones’ loss, but can he repeat that performance during Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game against the Jayhawks at Hilton Coliseum?

Sure, you say, considering the game’s in Ames, where Hilton fans always are revved up. But also consider this:

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Wigginton will be the point guard this time. His offensive role not only will be to score, but also to facilitate others to do the same, and so I repeat:

Can Wigginton again be the best player on the floor in a game against Kansas?

“Let’s not overthink this thing,” coach Steve Prohm said before practice Monday. “He has an ability to put the ball in the hole. He’s a great athlete. He’s got great size. He’s got a great deal of confidence in himself.”

Despite the emergence of Wigginton and Lard, the Cyclones have been left to battle for an NIT bid in the season’s closing weeks after reaching six straight NCAA Tournaments. But starting next season, expectations for Iowa State will once again be high— and Wigginton and Lard will be the two of the biggest reasons why.

And he’s on a roll after scoring 26 points and outscoring probable national player of the year Trae Young during last Saturday’s 88-80 victory Oklahoma.

“He’s gotten so much better, defensively, (guarding) the ball,” Prohm said. “There’s a lot of good guards in this league — to where he’s getting challenged every night. He’s really responded to that.”

Lard is averaging 15.6 points and 10 rebounds a game over last eight outings. The Cyclones don’t run many plays for Lard, who instead gets the majority of his points on putbacks and dunks and has risen all the way to 24th nationally by shooting 64.4 percent from the floor.

He responded while Nick Weiler-Babb flirted with multiple triple-doubles as the point guard.

Weiler-Babb, though, has missed the last four games while giving the tendinitis in his left knee a rest. No problem:

Wigginton picked up the slack with averages of 18.8 points and 5.8 assists — with Weiler-Babb being his biggest sideline cheerleader, and get this:

Wigginton averaged 15.9 points and 2.3 assists when he was playing alongside Weiler-Babb, so just how good is this true freshman?

Wigginton outshone fellow newcomer Trae Young with 26 points, including a back-breaking 3 with 1:16 left, and Lard had 19 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.

“He’s learning this position on the fly,” Prohm said. “I think he can be very good at it.”

How much he plays that position Tuesday depends on Weiler-Babb’s status; Prohm said he might be available.

“I’ll put him at questionable,” Prohm said. “There’s a lot of positive things going on there (with Weiler-Babb’s rehab).”

“Feeling pretty good,” he said. “Whether I’ll play — it’s a possibility.”

Wigginton, meanwhile, must be prepared for both roles during this high-profile game in which Kansas’ bid for a 14th Big 12 regular-season title in a row might be slipping a bit.

“I still want Lindell in attack mode,” Prohm said. “He’ll still have the ball in his hands a lot.

“It’s just about winning and whatever we think is the best way to win.”

Prohm has confidence. Weiler-Babb also has confidence in his rookie understudy.

“I have complete trust in Lindell,” Weiler-Babb said. “In the past four games, he’s been doing an incredible job.”

Kansas dropped to 13th on the latest coaches’ poll after Saturday’s 80-64 loss at Baylor. The Jayhawks entered the week in second place, a game behind Texas Tech.

“I would bet that they’re lazer focused,” Prohm said of Kansas. “They still have an opportunity to win the league — one game out of the lead with six to go — and they play Texas Tech again.

“We’ll get their A-No. 1 best shot. I wouldn’t expect anything different.”

Kansas got Wigginton’s best shot last month. He promises his best shot Tuesday, too, regardless of position. He’s not called “Big Game Wigginton” for nothing.

He says he'll be prepared to play either point guard or off-guard. Randy Peterson / The Register

“I like to go up against the best,” Wigginton said Monday. “When I go up against the best, I want to show that I’m the best, too.”

Iowa State has beaten Top 25s Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma — a trio of games during which Wigginton averaged 20.3 points.

“Great kid. Great character guy,” Prohm said. “At the end of the day, he’s just a talented kid.”

From the point guard position or while running free — it makes no difference.

“He’ll be great,” Weiler-Babb said. “He’s been incredible.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at [email protected] or on Twitter at @RandyPete.


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