For about 30-35 minutes it sure looked like it was Iowa State’s night. The Cyclones were hot from the three-point line, Royce White was asserting himself and they even got a half-court heave to go down. And what a statement it would be.
After intra-state losses to Drake and Northern Iowa early in the season, the Cyclones could begin conference play 3-0 with a win over a team ranked in the top ten. But it was not to be. Missouri stretched the lead just out of Iowa State’s grasp within the last six or so minutes of the game, and ran disciplined offensive sets to keep it there.
Iowa State used a lot of NBA-style isolation with White and good three-point shooting (12-23) to test the Tigers. This is a formula that should win quite a few games for the Cyclones, especially at home. But Missouri’s scoring depth and balance really shone tonight. Marcus Denmon was shut down (6 points) but the Tigers still had six players in double figures.
White had a stretch where he was easily getting to the basket in isolation, but Missouri started running a guard at him at the top of the key. After White mishandled it once Hoiberg seemed to go away from it. White was also in foul trouble so constantly having him run at guys was dangerous. But there are few players in the conference that can defend that, and Hoiberg can always go back to that look if the Cyclone offense is stagnant.
Steve Moore put in a nice effort and helped the Tigers not get demolished on the glass like they did against Kansas State. Missouri outrebounded Iowa State 36-25, but that isn’t too much of a surprise considering the matchup.
Ricardo Ratliffe’s efficient, reliable post-game (12 points on 6-8 shooting) is something that can really set Missouri apart as the season goes on. He’ll never dominate a game, but it seems if the Tigers can get him the ball in a decent spot near the paint, he’ll find a good shot. Kim English also had a couple of 15-footers while rolling off screens, which isn’t something he’s been great at in his career. That could also be a nice weapon for Frank Haith.
As for Iowa State, their future for this season certainly looks good. Assuming they win the gams they are supposed to, all they’ll need is a win over Kansas, Baylor or Kansas State to really feel good about their NCAA chances. I have a feeling they’ll get one of those teams at Hilton. Oh the beauty of the complete round robin.
Chris Babb did a great job on Denmon tonight, and with his size and athleticism Iowa State has a guy that can frustrate any opposing wing. And then there is White, who might be the singularly most dominant player in the conference behind Thomas Robinson. However, you almost wonder if teams should start to use a hack-a-Royce strategy. He was 2-8 from the line in this game and has gone 12-29 in Big 12 play.