Things are humming for the Iowa State offense right now.The Cyclones are averaging 83.6 points in this seven-game winning streak. Lindell Wigginton, Donovan Jackson and Nick Weiler-Babb are all shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
Things are good for the Cyclones on that end of the floor. There is, though, a lingering issue that concerns ISU coach Steve Prohm going forward.
The Cyclones are getting nearly no shooting from its frontcourt.
“We’ve got to start making some,” Prohm said.
ISU’s primary forwards — Jeff Beverly, Solomon Young, Cameron Lard and Hans Brase — have combined to shoot 4 of 28 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range. Prohm isn’t looking for that group to light it up from distance, but getting some sort of production there will help alleviate some pressure on the offense.
“We’ve really got to start repping it, emphasizing good practice reps, good practice shots so that can translate,” Prohm said.
Brase, who is still working his way back to full speed after recovering from ACL surgery, appears to be the best option there as he’s actually the only forward to make a 3 this season (Lard hasn’t attempted one), connecting on four of his 11 attempts from distance.
“Hans is one guy when he gets his feet set and he gets a little more comfortable, conditioning, game speed, that can start making (3s),” Prohm said. “Whether it’s two for four, two for five, start helping spread that out a little bit and hurt people if they want to start guarding pick and roll certain ways.”
Brase has been the most productive 3-point shooter for ISU’s frontcourt, but Beverly has been its most prolific — though to poor results. The 6-foot-6 senior is 0 of 14 from 3-point range this season.
“Jeff just needs to make one and get the monkey off his back,” Prohm said, “because you can watch him in drillwork in practice and even in whether it’s five on zero or live drills, he makes them.”
Beverly, who shot 21.3 percent on 3s last year at Texas-San Antonio, said he’s not deterred by his slow start from 3-point range.
“I can make 3s with ease,” he said. “In practice (recently), I hit like 10 in a row, 15 in a row. Making 3s, it’s going to come. I just put pressure on myself early to make shots. My shot will fall.
“It’s a process. It’s not lowering my confidence. I just need to see one to go in. When one goes in, the floodgates will open.”
With the roster constructed the way it is, ISU really doesn’t have many options to play without two bigs on the floor at the same time. That could change when Jakolby Long (concussion) returns to the lineup or when Zoran Talley Jr. (foot) is healthy, though Talley is 0 of 6 from 3-point range. In the meantime, however, ISU doesn’t have the capability to go small and get more shooting on the floor.
“That’s really not a thought process for us right now,” Prohm said.
While ISU’s offense is working without having an abundance of shooting across positions, the concern for the Cyclones will be how Big 12 defenses approach them. With improved players and athletes along with more-detailed scouting reports and game-planning, opponents could devise systems that ignore ISU’s forwards outside 10 feet from the basket that could congest spacing and allow for more help on the likes of Wigginton, Jackson and Weiler-Babb.
“There are counters to that if they don’t want to guard people,” Prohm said, “We’ve had that before to where you have to become a great ballscreen guy, and hopefully that will open things up for Wigginton to get downhill a little bit more and do some things you can counter to that.”
Ultimately, though, the simplest solution would be for ISU’s bigs to have the ability to stretch the floor with enough shooting to keep defenses from playing with what would amount to a man advantage.
“We do need an extra burst from there,” Prohm said. “It’s not about making five or six, it’s about making two or three to keep people honest.”