Bryce Dejean Jones

Iowa State wins another Big 12 tourney crown (Getty Images)

Offensive discipline will be key for No. 13 Iowa State next week – and beyond

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source: Getty Images
Iowa State wins another Big 12 tourney crown (Getty Images)

Saturday night No. 13 Iowa State won its second consecutive Big 12 tournament title, beating No. 9 Kansas 70-66, but for the second time in three games the Cyclones needed a second-half surge to earn the victory.

Thursday night, Iowa State turned in one of its poorer halves of the season in their quarterfinal matchup against Texas. The Cyclones struggled with ball and player movement on the offensive end of the floor for much of the first half, with a late run making the halftime deficit a more manageable nine points.

Of course the Cyclones managed to come back, winning by two on a Monté Morris jumper in the final seconds, but Fred Hoiberg’s team was “playing with fire” in falling behind by as much as they did. Iowa State had the same problem in the first half against the Jayhawks, as they were far too stagnant offensively and the lack of ball and player movement had a significant impact on their productivity.

The Cyclones shot 10-for-29 from the field (1-for-11 3PT), and they trailed by 14 despite scoring 16 points in the paint. That turned around in the second half, as Iowa State shot 16-for-31 from the field and scored 31 points in the paint. Given the number of shooters they have on the floor, there are times when Iowa State falls in love with the perimeter shot and essentially bails out the defense.

That didn’t occur in the second half Saturday, and the result was Iowa State being able to take advantage of a Kansas front court that is without Cliff Alexander and despite his playing Perry Ellis doesn’t look to be 100 percent either. Morris (11 points, six assists) and Niang (19 points, five rebounds) combined to score 20 points in the second half, and players such as Jameel McKay (11 points, eight points), Abdel Nader (13 points) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (seven points) stepped forward as well.

Add in the fact that they were able to limit the Jayhawks to 26.3 percent shooting, and the reasons for Iowa State’s comeback aren’t difficult to pinpoint.

There’s no denying that Iowa State can be a team capable of making a run to the Final Four, and that appeared to be the case last season before Niang broke his foot in their NCAA tournament opener. But their “ceiling” will be determined by how consistent this group is in its approach. When Iowa State is disciplined offensively and uses proper spacing to attack defenses, they are incredibly tough to stop. And when that doesn’t occur, Iowa State essentially defends itself with the opposition needing to do little more than remain in front of them.

Iowa State’s offensive approach in the second half of Saturday’s game resulted in their winning another Big 12 tournament title. And they’ll need to stick to the principles that make them so difficult to slow down for longer stretches if they’re to play deep into the NCAA tournament. They’re certainly capable; the only question is whether or not they choose to do so.

Iowa State star Bryce-Dejean Jones suspended for Friday’s game at Iowa

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The biggest question mark for Iowa State entering this season was whether or not Fred Hoiberg would be able to work his transfer magic on Bryce Dejean-Jones.

And through the season’s first month, he did. Dejean-Jones was playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 17.1 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from three, both career-highs. He was playing within the offense and buying into what Hoiberg wanted him to do.

Then Wednesday happened.

Dejean-Jones was arrested overnight. As of Thursday morning, he was still being held in Story County jail on $1,600 bond for three charges, according to the jail’s website: “Hosting a drug house” (marijuana), “nuisance party regulations” and a “noise violation.” The arrest occurred at 3 a.m., according to the Ames Tribune, and while the charge “hosting a drug house” sounds bad, it essentially means that Dejean-Jones allowed people to smoke weed where he lived.

This was not the first time that there had been an issue involving noise at Dejean-Jones’ apartment, and the police told the Tribune that they had previously worked with the basketball staff to try and fix the problem.

While the charges filed against Dejean-Jones Thursday morning were dropped a few hours later that did not save the senior guard from the wrath of his head coach. Hoiberg announced Thursday afternoon that Dejean-Jones has been suspended for Iowa State’s game against in-state rival Iowa Friday night.

No. 20 Iowa State was clicking on all cylinders offensively in their win over No. 18 Arkansas

Georges Niang (AP Photo)
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After winning their first six games of the season No. 18 Arkansas faced its toughest test to date Thursday, as they visited No. 20 Iowa State. Mike Anderson’s pressure defense has worked well in home games during his tenure, but the results have been mixed when it comes to road games. Unfortunately for Arkansas that’s exactly how things played out in Ames, as they were unable to slow down an incredibly efficient Iowa State attack.

Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones shot 64 percent from the field (10-for-19 3PT) and committed just 11 turnovers (19 assists), winning by the final score of 95-77. Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 27 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and Georges Niang added 26 and eight assists, and the junior forward was a key player in Iowa State’s breaking of the Arkansas full-court press.

Niang’s ability to not only handle the basketball but distribute it in the open floor is an incredibly valuable asset when going against full-court pressure, and on multiple occasions he was able to get the ball to his teammates. Iowa State was then able to use their ball movement, working from one side of the court to the other, to find openings either on the perimeter or on the low block.

All five starters scored in double figures for Iowa State, and the combination of balance and efficiency proved to be too much for Arkansas to overcome.

Just as bad for Arkansas was the fact that Iowa State converted 14 Razorback turnovers into 22 points, outscoring Arkansas by six point in that category. Add in a 36-16 Iowa State advantage in points in the paint, and it isn’t all that difficult to figure out why the game was so lopsided. Arkansas’ system is predicated on forcing live-ball turnovers and converting them into points on the other end, and Iowa State took that away.

But that’s what Iowa State can do to most teams when they’re on. The question every year for Hoiberg’s team is how they’ll go about incorporating transfers into their system, and each year he makes it work. The latest addition is Dejean-Jones, a player who was rarely described as “efficient” during his time at UNLV. Through six games he’s found a better fit in Ames, with his performance Thursday being his best in an Iowa State uniform.

Arkansas arrived in Ames with hopes of adding an early signature win to their resume, but their inability to force Iowa State out of their comfort zone resulted in their first defeat of the season.