DES MOINES — Tens games into the season, old habits have already become hard to break for the Iowa State basketball team.
The Cyclones used another second-half surge Saturday to shake Northern Iowa 76-65 in the Hy-Vee Classic at Wells Fargo Arena, using the touch of Lindell Wigginton to pull away from a 50-50 tie in the final 9 1/2 minutes.
"I’m glad we had the offense spurt we had, but at some point I’d like for us to become a good first-half team and a good second-half team," ISU coach Steve Prohm said.
The Panthers didn’t let that happen, opening a six-point with just under six minutes left in the first half, holding a 33-30 halftime advantage and clinging to a 50-47 lead before the Cyclones rallied.
Wigginton scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as Iowa State overcame an 11-of-34 start from the field.
"We had to be physical, and we had to make the tough plays to win the day, and we did that," Prohm said.
To earn its eighth straight victory, the Cyclones had little choice after Wyatt Lohaus scored three of his team-leading 16 points to give UNI a 50-47 lead with 10 minutes, 16 seconds remaining.
Wigginton hit a pair of free throws with 9:28 left to erase the Panthers’ final lead of the game, scored on a lay-in off of a turnover and then buried a 3-point basket with 8:20 remaining to fuel a 14-2 run that left ISU in control.
"My teammates kept me confident early, telling me that I was going to knock the next one down," Wigginton said. "Nick (Weiler-Babb) was doing a good job pushing the pace, and that seemed to help."
The Cyclones shot 58.3 percent in the second half, finding what Weiler-Babb described as "new energy" to overcome a halftime deficit to win for the third time in four games.
"For some reason, we struggle in the first half but coach puts in a plan, we adjust, and we come out and find a way to win," said Weiler-Babb, who scored nine of his 15 points in the second half.
Prohm insists there is no secret to ISU’s second-half success.
"Mostly, it’s been about reiterating what we’ve been talking about all week," Prohm said. "The first thing you look at in the first half is if you’re getting good shots, and I felt like we were getting good opportunities."
He believes how Iowa State defended the Panthers and matched their physicality had as much to do with the second-half turnaround as anything.
UNI coach Ben Jacobson saw that as well, pointing to the combined 7-of-23 game from Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson inside. Koch finished with four points, more than 11 below his team-leading average.
"Even with those two struggling the way they did, we were right there with seven, eight minutes left," Jacobson said.
"But, (the Cyclones) were more physical down the stretch and made the plays they needed to make. I thought they played harder than we did in that area of the game, and that had a lot to do with the run they went on to decide it."