AMES, Iowa — The message about consistency comes consistently from Iowa State coach Steve Prohm.
Do not live in peaks and valleys.
In a way, that Cyclones are heeding that advice, as they never stay in one spot long enough to ever qualify for residency. That, though, isn’t exactly what Prohm means when he preaches stability for his unqualifiedly streaky squad.
“The inconsistency is what drives you crazy,” Prohm said, “and that’s what we’ve got to continue to fight and try to shorten that gap of the inconsistent moments.”
The Cyclones (12-9, 3-6) had perhaps their wildest swing of inconsistency in the past week when then-No. 22 Tennessee held them to a Hilton Coliseum record low of 45 points and blasted ISU by 23.
By Wednesday, though, the Cyclones were celebrating a 16-point win over No. 15 West Virginia in which they torched the vaunted Mountaineer defense for 93 points.
The deepest valley and the highest peak all in just a few days.
“It’s frustrating because getting smacked by Tennessee at home and then beating West Virginia,” junior Zoran Talley said, ”(we) know what we’re capable of doing.
“Instead of doing it on a nightly basis, it just comes out after a loss. We’ve got to keep growing.”
ISU’s latest test to try to build on its positive momentum comes tonight at Baylor (7 p.m.; ESPN2). The Cyclones earned their first Big 12 win of the season last month when they topped the Bears, 75-65, at home.
ISU followed that up with a 23-point loss at TCU just days later.
“We definitely have had a lot of valleys throughout the season,” sophomore Solomon Young said. “From here all we can go is up.”
A consistency of high-level effort and competing is really what Prohm is looking for from his young and inexperienced team.
“That’s all you want,” he said, “and then you’ve got to live with the results from that if you do all the other things right. That’s the thing you’re harping on with these guys, and hopefully they can learn that because we’ve had great moments and then we’ve had bad moments.”
After the losses to the Horned Frogs and Volunteers, ISU described its play as “soft.” There’s no doubt a lack of mental toughness has contributed to ISU’s inconsistent play.
“The games we lost where we just didn’t respond, that’s what we’ve got to get away from,” Prohm said. “Sometimes you hit a team and they’re just darn good that night and they were just better than you, but let that be the case before we just wither.”
Eventually, the thinking goes, the consistency will bring more days like Wednesday and fewer like Saturday without days like Wednesday or Saturday influencing how the Cyclones prepare and play every other day.
“You’re judged by wins and losses,” Prohm said, “but we can’t let wins and losses or makes and misses define who we are.”