In a matchup of two of the three teams that entered Saturday tied for second place in the Big 12, No. 14 Iowa State’s ability to put points on the board was the difference in their 79-59 win over No. 21 West Virginia. While the game was a bit closer than the final margin would lead one to believe, the Cyclones took control of the game with a 14-2 run to start the second half.
Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones, one of the best offensive teams in the country, shot 56.5% from the field and outscored the Mountaineers 21-5 from the foul line. While Iowa State committed 16 turnovers, two fewer than the 18 they committed in the first meeting between the two teams (a 74-72 Cyclone win), the Cyclones finished Saturday’s game with fewer turnovers than West Virginia (19). Unlike the first meeting, in which West Virginia outscored Iowa State by three from the foul line, the Mountaineers were unable to cover up for their lackluster shooting by scoring in other areas.
Monte Morris led five Cyclones in double figures with 19 points, and Abdel Nader scored 16 points off the bench for Iowa State, which is now tied for second with Oklahoma. Juwan Staten led the Mountaineers with 16, but no other player managed to score more than nine and as a team they shot 37.9% from the field and 5-for-10 from the foul line.
Bob Huggins’ team plays incredibly hard, and the pressure defense has been a major factor in their resurgence after failing to play at the level most expected of them for most of their first two seasons in the Big 12. But they lack consistent shooters, and that’s something that gets West Virginia in trouble when they’re unable to rack up points from turnovers, second-chance opportunities and the foul line against superior offensive teams.
That was the case Saturday afternoon in Ames, and it makes Monday night’s game against No. 8 Kansas even more important.
The good news for West Virginia is that their schedule still has multiple opportunities to add to their NCAA tournament resume, with the Big 12 being considered by many as the toughest conference in the country from top to bottom. However they won’t be able to take advantage of those opportunities if they can’t get going offensively, which has been an issue in this current stretch of three losses in their last four games.
West Virginia shot 38 percent or worse in all three defeats, and winning is incredibly tough to do when shooting that poorly from the field. While there’s no issue with using your defense to spark the offense, West Virginia has to get better when they’re unable to rely on that plan.