The message from the ISU men's basketball team is simple: don’t panic.
After the best start in school history at 14-0 and reaching as high as No. 8 in the AP Poll, the Cyclones have dropped three-straight games and have since slid to No. 16 as of today and sit in the middle of the Big 12 at 2-3.
As a result of the losing streak, a players-only meeting was called by a collective group Sunday night to get things off of chests and to get back to basics.
“We said a lot about doing the little things and that helped us get to 14-0,” said ISU forward Georges Niang. “I mean losing three games isn’t the end of the world, but I mean there’s a lot of winners in this circle and it hurts losing these games so we’re going to try and bounce back and get back to doing the little things.”
Another reason for the unexpected skid? It was unforeseen that the Big 12 would be as strong as it is throughout, with six teams ranked in the top-25 in the latest AP Poll.
No. 22 Kansas State beat highly touted Oklahoma State, No. 24 Baylor took down Kentucky earlier this year and No. 8 Kansas has won its last three straight games, which were all against ranked opponents — and sits atop the Big 12 with an unblemished 4-0 record.
“I think everybody thought it was going to be really good at the top,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, referring to Kansas and Oklahoma State. “You see what has happened with the way the league is right now — every night you better be ready.
"I think teams have the youth, but that youth’s pretty talented in our league, so I think top to bottom it is the best league in the country.”
The same way that winning brings praise, losing brings criticism and with today’s social media, it can be a discouraging distraction. The recent shooting slump of Matt Thomas spurred Hoiberg to tell him to shut down his Twitter and focus on what matters.
Players like Naz Long and Niang have dealt with that the entire year, but encourage fans to stick with them, even during a three-game slide in the most highly ranked conference in the country.
“Stick with us,” Long said. “Times get rough and tough times don’t last for tough people.”
When Niang was asked if he thought fans might have forgotten that the team started 14-0 with the panic of the three losses, he said he had forgotten about it, too, and had moved on.
“We’re just trying to get back on a one-game winning streak,” Niang said. “I just think we’re high on ourselves and these crunch time situations we just need to relax. We’ve got a lot of good players who can make good plays and a coach that can bring us all together.”