Texas Tech-Iowa St. Preview
Iowa State nearly took down one of the top teams in the country to open Big 12 play, but a meeting against an unranked opponent might also prove to be a difficult test.
Texas Tech heads to Ames on Wednesday night to take on the 13th-ranked Cyclones, and it's the Red Raiders hoping to extend their longest winning streak since the Bobby Knight era.
The Cyclones (11-2, 0-1) have dropped two of their last four following a 9-0 start, but the latest was Saturday's 87-83 defeat at then-No. 3 Oklahoma. Down by two, Monte Morris missed an open 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds remaining.
"We got a great look," said first-year coach Steve Prohm, whose team is now in danger of its first 0-2 start in the conference since 2010-11. "You get that look, you live with it. We competed and had a great chance, and that's what's sickening, really."
The offensive effort and execution preceding those final seconds were certainly up to Prohm's liking with the Cyclones shooting 51.5 percent and hitting 7 of 16 from 3-point range while limiting Oklahoma to 42.7 percent.
If they fell short anywhere, it might have been on the offensive glass, where the Sooners grabbed 13 of their misses. The Cyclones committed 10 turnovers, which is under their season average, but only got seven out of the Sooners - a season low for Iowa State opponents.
"It's just tough to take this one," said Georges Niang, who scored 29 points on 13-of-18 shooting. "I feel like we came in and played a great game."
The senior has done that consistently lately, averaging 24.5 points and shooting 61.9 percent in the last four games, but Iowa State is 1-2 in games in which he's reached at least 29 this season.
The forward's career against Texas Tech hasn't been as accomplished, as he's averaged 10.5 points and shot 47.3 percent in six starts with the Cyclones going 4-2. That includes a split last season with the home team winning each, but Iowa State ran Texas Tech out of Hilton Coliseum with a 75-38 win on Feb. 7, so Niang was limited to 19 minutes.
The Cyclones have won 51 straight home games against unranked opponents, including the last four home meetings with the Red Raiders by an average of 20.3 points, but none of those Texas Tech teams won more than 14 games.
This one is coming off Saturday's 82-74 home victory over Texas to get within two games of matching Knight's 12-game winning streak from 2003-04. After going 3-16 in the conference last season, the Red Raiders are hoping to return to the relative success of that era.
"We've been the hunted instead of the hunter," said Toddrick Gotcher, who had 18 points and is averaging 14.5 in his last six. "It's starting to change around."
The Red Raiders (11-1, 1-0), yet to play a true road game, got 23 points from Devaugntah Williams, but it was frontcourt pair Norense Odiase and Zach Smith earning their coach's praise. Odiase has averaged 13.5 points in the last two games after managing 8.9 through 10 games. Smith has been in double figures in his last five while shooting 61.8 percent.
"(Odiase) got us going from the beginning with his aggressiveness and taking the ball to the basket," coach Tubby Smith told the school's official website. "... Norense and Zach are really clutch for us inside. They've got to be able to finish around the basket. When you have a win like this, it is a team effort. Everyone played well. You see that with our balanced scoring. That's how we have to compete."
Smith's team has lost its last eight against ranked opponents since beating No. 9 Iowa State 78-73 on Jan. 24. But its last road win against the Top 25 also came in the Knight era - 29 games ago on Feb. 13, 2007, at Texas A&M.