After suffering their first loss of the year at the hands of the Kansas State Wildcats over the weekend, the Tigers face another Big 12 opponent on the road when they travel to Ames, Iowa to face the Iowa State Cyclones Wednesday night.
For the past several years, the Cyclones have resided in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings, and were considered an easy win anytime they came to Columbia. But under coach Fred Hoiberg, ISU has made a quick turnaround and are off to a 12-3 start in Hoiberg’s second season. In addition, the Cyclones will welcome the Tigers to James Hilton Coliseum with a boatload of confidence, as they enter tonight’s matchup fresh off of victories over Texas and Texas A&M to open their slate of conference games. In their dominating 74-50 victory over the Aggies in College Station, five Cyclones scored in double digits, and star forward Royce White posted a triple double. The balanced attack that Iowa State is able to bring each night is already giving opposing defenses fits, and the size of White is sure to challenge the Tigers’ main big man, Ricardo Ratliffe. Throw in a hostile environment in Ames, and it is clear that the Cyclones cannot be overlooked by the Tigers.
However, the biggest task at hand for Mizzou tonight will be to get back to the style of play that led them to a 14-0 start. Against Kansas State, the offense was stagnant as a result of little ball movement, and Ratliffe could not stay out of foul trouble. Especially against a balanced team like the Cyclones that utilizes White both to score and to set up sharp shooters like Scott Christopherson and Chris Babb, it is imperative that the Tigers remain disciplined defensively and help out Ratliffe down low. The Cyclones aren’t afraid to run with the Tigers, and while they give up a fair amount of points in transition, they force the opposition to earn each basket while in the half court set. As evidenced by Texas A&M and their measly 50 point showing over the weekend, Iowa State will make teams that have a bad shooting night suffer.
If the Tigers fail to establish an offensive rhythm early and allow White to control the pain, they will struggle to put away the Cyclones. However, the Tigers are the better team in this matchup, and expect Frank Haith’s squad to play passionately and with more energy after suffering their first defeat of the season. Even though Iowa State is a dangerous team, the Tigers should be able to get back to their winning ways through tight defense and constant ball movement.