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Iowa State’s Weiler-Babb, Young could miss rest of the season

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Iowa State could play the rest of this season without Nick Weiler-Babb and Solomon Young as the school announced Tuesday that both players are dealing with knee injuries.

Weiler-Babb has been battling tendinitis in his left knee during this season as he sat out four games during the year. Although Weiler-Babb returned to play in the last two games for the Cyclones, he got another medical opinion over the weekend.

Young had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Tuesday as he’s expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks.

“It is unfortunate for Nick and Solomon because of the hard work they have put into our program,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said in a statement. “We always want to do what is in the best interest of our players and their health is our top priority.”

Weiler-Babb, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, put up 11.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game for the Cyclones this week while Young, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest.

Since Iowa State is at .500 and likely won’t play in any significant postseason, these injuries will give them a chance to give some minutes to some younger and more inexperienced players. The Cyclones host TCU on Wednesday night as they still have four games left in the regular season before the Big 12 tournament begins.

Iowa State upsets No. 17 Oklahoma 88-80

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AMES, Iowa — Trae Young might be the best freshman in America — but he wasn’t the best one in Ames on Saturday.

That distinction went to Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton, who kept his undermanned team in contention before drilling the 3 that sent Young and the Sooners packing on the road yet again.

Wigginton upstaged Young by scoring 26 points and the Cyclones upset No. 17 Oklahoma 88-80 on Saturday, handing the Sooners their sixth consecutive loss on the road.

“In my mind, I feel like I’m one of the best guards in the country. Obviously Trae is one of the best guards in the country too,” Wigginton said. “We had a good matchup and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Fellow rookie Cam Lard wasn’t bad either. He scored 19 points with 17 rebounds for the Cyclones (13-11, 4-8 Big 12), who beat a ranked team at home for the third time in a span of three weeks.

Iowa State built and then blew a 17-point lead, but Donovan Jackson’s 3 with 1:55 left put it ahead 80-77. Wigginton then beat the shot clock with a long 3 after a discombobulated possession, and Jackson hit a pair of free throws to clinch the win.

The Cyclones ran the Sooners (16-8, 6-6) out of the building in the first half, holding Young to just one 3 in the opening 19 minutes while building a lead that stretched to 40-23.

“We didn’t open the game like we wanted to. I thought Iowa State was sharp,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We’ve got to do a better job (on defense). We’ve got to commit more to it.”

Young finished with 22 points and 11 assists, but he was just 1 of 8 on 3s with six turnovers.

“I had some open looks I didn’t hit, that I usually do,” Young said.

The Sooners fought back behind their defense. They held Iowa State without a field goal for eight minutes and eventually tied the game at 71-all on Young’s layup with 4:55 left.

Christian James also had 22 points for Oklahoma, which last won on the road at TCU on Dec. 30.

THE BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma: The Sooners are going to have a tough time convincing the NCAA Tournament committee that they deserve a high seed unless they can start winning some games away from Norman. This one was there for them late, but Young couldn’t find the magic he has so often shown this season.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were able to beat Young and the Sooners even without their own starting point guard, Nick Weiler-Babb, who was out yet again because of knee tendinitis. This was an admirable performance for a team with just eight players suited up to play. “Now we’ve got to string two together,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. Jackson also scored 19 for Iowa State.

ROOKIE VS. ROOKIE

Young set up for a short jumper with Wigginton guarding him early in the first half. But Young, sensing a better shot, changed direction and instead lurched forward for an under-handed layup. But Wigginton wasn’t fooled, and he swatted Young’s shot into the stands. “Lindell is a good player. But it’s not just him,” Young said.

NOT SO YOUNG ANYMORE

Young on Saturday became just the third Big 12 freshman to score at least 700 points, joining Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. Young is also just the second Sooner with that many points in a season, as Wayman Tisdale scored 810 points in his historic 1982-83 campaign. What was so remarkable about Young’s performance on Saturday was that it felt as though he was having a terrible game — and yet he still finished with a double-double.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

After losing to West Virginia at home and to the Cyclones on the road, Oklahoma might find itself out of Monday’s poll.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma plays at Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Iowa State hosts Kansas on Tuesday.

No. 7 Texas Tech wins 5th straight, 76-58 over Iowa State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Freshman guard Zhaire Smith scored a career-high 21 points, including a steal that led to his alley-oop slam, and No. 7 Texas Tech beat Iowa State 76-58 on Wednesday night for its fifth straight win.

After the Cyclones (12-11, 3-8 Big 12) scored seven straight points in a 77-second span to get within one after halftime, Smith made a steal. He passed the ball on the break to Jarrett Culver, who then lobbed an alley-oop pass that resulted in Smith’s two-handed slam.

Culver added 16 points for the Red Raiders (20-4, 8-3), whose last loss was 70-52 at Iowa State on Jan. 20. Keenan Evans scored 15.

Texas Tech is the first Big 12 team to reach 20 wins overall and is tied with No. 10 Kansas (19-5, 8-3) atop the conference standings.

Cameron Lard had a career-high 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting for already short-handed Iowa State. He played only 20 minutes before fouling out. Lindell Wigginton scored 13.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been to a school-record six NCAA Tournaments in a row, but that streak could be in serious jeopardy. They have lost four of their last five games, and are in a stretch of three straight against ranked opponents.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are 15-0 at home this season and have won 16 in a row there since an 82-80 loss to Iowa State last February. They have already surpassed last season’s totals of 18 wins overall and six wins in the Big 12.

MISSING YOU

The Cyclones played their second game in a row without junior guard Nick Weiler-Babb, who has left knee tendinitis. He is the only player in the nation averaging at least 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. Iowa State had only eight available players because senior forward Hans Brase was also out with a knee issue.

UP NEXT

Iowa State also faces Top 25 opponents in its next two games, Saturday against No. 17 Oklahoma and next Tuesday night against No. 10 Kansas.

Texas Tech plays three of its next four on the road. The Red Raiders play Saturday night at Kansas State, a team they beat by 16 points at home on Jan. 6.

Iowa State upsets No. 15 West Virginia as the Mountaineers could be in serious trouble

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Iowa State picked up a blowout win over No. 15 West Virginia on Wednesday night as the Cyclones used some “Hilton Magic” to earn a 93-77 Big 12 home win.

While Iowa State (12-9, 3-6) had a balanced scoring effort to earn its biggest win of the season — getting huge outings from guards Donovan Jackson (25 points) and Lindell Wigginton (22 points) — the real story in this one is the continued freefall of West Virginia after a promising start to the 2017-2018 season.

Ranked as the No. 2 team in the country three weeks ago, the Mountaineers started the season at 15-1 with a 4-0 mark in the Big 12. After another meltdown against the Cyclones on Wednesday, West Virginia (16-6, 5-4) has lost five of its last six games while playing in the nation’s deepest conference.

So what happened to West Virginia to cause its sudden reversal? Opponents are figuring out the vaunted press that head coach Bob Huggins has used so successfully over the past few years.

After scoring only 45 points total in an ugly home loss to Tennessee over the weekend, Iowa State put up 53 points on the Mountaineers in the first half after West Virginia struggled to force turnovers. Giving up eye-opening point totals during a 20-minute stretch has been a common trend for the Mountaineers during this recent skid.

West Virginia has blown three second-half, double-digit leads during that span. The second half of games, overall, has been abysmal for the Mountaineers in recent weeks. They allowed 50 points in the second half to Kentucky, 47 points to TCU and 43 points to Kansas — all of them losses. And keep in mind that this team was ranked No. 16 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, entering Wednesday night’s game. Defense and forcing turnovers is West Virginia’s identity.

The Iowa State first-half blitz is the outlier of that recent stretch, but it also shows that if a team is prepared to face West Virginia’s press then the Mountaineers are in serious trouble. The losses to Kentucky, TCU and Kansas all signified teams who made halftime adjustments and were able to put up serious points in a hurry once they figured out West Virginia’s first wave of defenders.

Iowa State didn’t even need a halftime break to beat the brakes off of West Virginia. The Cyclone backcourt of Jackson and Wigginton tore up the press and was good to go from the start.

That could be the main issue for West Virginia.

Now that we’re in the heart of conference play, teams in the Big 12 aren’t intimidated by “Press Virginia.” All of the Big 12’s coaches and players have faced the Mountaineers two-to-three times each season over the last few years. They know what to expect.

If a Big 12 team has strong guard play, and limits turnovers, like Iowa State did with only eight turnovers on Wednesday, then West Virginia is forced to create offense in the half court. That’s never been a strength for this group. As NBC colleague Rob Dauster noted, Mountaineer leading scorer Jevon Carter puts up more ridiculous shots than perhaps any All-American candidate in the country because West Virginia is so desperate for consistent half-court offense.

West Virginia is also still trying to effectively integrate Esa Ahmad back into the rotation since his return to the team. The second leading scorer and rebounder for the Mountaineers last season, Ahmad has looked visibly rusty since his return, as he went scoreless playing a combined 36 minutes in the losses to TCU and Kentucky.

A team that once looked like a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is now desperately trying to prevent themselves from falling out of the top 25 all in the course of a month. And it doesn’t get any easier for West Virginia from here. The four teams that beat the Mountaineers in the Big 12 all get another crack at West Virginia. Shaky on the road during some recent games, the Mountaineers also have plenty of games away from Morgantown.

Once regarded as one of the best teams in college hoops, West Virginia should still be safely in the Field of 68. But they certainly don’t look like the darkhorse Final Four team that some predicted.

No. 24 TCU snaps 3-game skid with 96-73 over Iowa State

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Vladimir Brodziansky had 26 points and No. 24 TCU snapped a three-game losing streak with a 96-73 win over Iowa State on Wednesday night, when the Horned Frogs played for the first time without injured starting point guard Jaylen Fisher.

Alex Robinson, who started at point guard, scored eight points and had a school-record 17 assists for the Horned Frogs (14-4, 2-4 Big 12), who never trailed and shot 60 percent from the field. He had only one turnover in 38 minutes.

Brodziansky shot 11 of 13 for his third 20-point game in five games. JD Miller added 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with five 3-pointers. Kouat Noi scored 16 points and Kenrich Williams had his eighth double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Donovan Jackson had 19 points for Iowa State (10-6, 1-5). Cameron Lard and Lindell Wigginton each had 16.

Fisher was scheduled to have surgery Thursday, two days after injuring his right knee during practice. The sophomore guard missed the team’s trip to Australia in August after tearing meniscus in his left knee during practice then, but was back for the start of the season after surgery.

Robinson’s 12th assist, surpassing his previous career high of 11, was on pass to Brodziansky for a slam dunk that made it 70-53 with 11:36 left before an Iowa State timeout. That was among many plays applauded by Fisher, who sat in a chair near the TCU bench.

TCU jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the game’s first 5 minutes, and led by as many as 17 in the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa St.: Even while they shot 51 percent from the field (30 of 59), the Cyclones couldn’t gain any momentum coming off their first Big 12 victory Saturday against Baylor. Wigginton, the freshman who was the Big 12 newcomer of the week after games with 30 and 27 points last week, had only two points at halftime after he got two fouls in the first 9 minutes.

TCU: After so many close games, including consecutive overtime losses on the road last week, the Frogs finally had a game in which they didn’t have to press in the closing minutes. Their four Big 12 losses are by a combined 11 points, and their only previous conference win was by three points in overtime.

UP NEXT

Iowa St.: Another ranked opponent for the Cyclones, who host No. 8 Texas Tech on Saturday.

TCU: The Horned Frogs play three of their next four games on the road. They are at Kansas State (13-5, 3-3) on Saturday.

Monte Morris leads No. 23 Iowa State past Oklahoma State in Big 12 Tournament

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Senior Monte Morris put together an outstanding performance with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as No. 23 Iowa State raced past Oklahoma State, 92-83, in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.

Morris had a triple-double earlier this season against The Citadel, but his performance on Thursday was far more special. This game came against a tournament-bound Cowboy team with an All-American guard in Jawun Evans during postseason play.

It’s part of the reason that Morris was selected to the NBCSports.com All-American team earlier this week. He was simply dominant on Thursday and Iowa State’s offense looked nearly unstoppable.

While Evans also had a strong game of his own with 29 points and four assists, Morris helped pace the No. 4 seed Cyclones (21-10) as their offense finished 12-for-24 from three-point range.

Morris had plenty of help from teammates as four other Iowa State players finished with at least 13 points. Senior Deonte Burton finished with 17 points while Naz Mitrou-Long added 14 points. Matt Thomas and Darrell Bowie both finished with 13 points.

It was the type of balanced effort that is going to make Iowa State an incredibly tough out next week. The Cyclones are playing with a lot of confidence since moving freshman forward Solomon Young into the starting lineup as this team’s four seniors on the perimeter are really clicking.

When you also get quality bench production from guys like Bowie and junior shooter Donovan Jackson (eight points) then it doesn’t matter if the Cyclones allow some points because that offense is tough to contain.

Iowa State can now potentially get a crack at No. 1 Kansas in a rubber-match that would be a ton of fun. This newer version of the Cyclones with Young could be an intriguing matchup with the Jayhawks and it should be a fun, up-and-down affair.

Oklahoma State (20-12) had a strong game from Jeffrey Carroll (21 points) as they’re still going to be safely in the NCAA tournament.

The Cowboys have dropped three straight games heading into next week but those losses all came against good teams. As a probable 7-through-10 seed (to give a generous range), the Cowboys are going to be an intriguing team to watch in the tournament based on matchup.

Evans is as good as any point guard in the country and Carroll and senior Phil Forte gives the Cowboys enough offensive firepower to hang with anyone. Given head coach Brad Underwood’s NCAA tournament track record at Stephen F. Austin the last three seasons — winning two out of three first-round games — the Cowboys should be well-prepared for anything.