Iowa State's loss to Texas Tech Saturday afternoon felt different.
Yes, it was the Cyclones' sixth loss in the last eight games, and yes, the Cyclones still have major issues to address before they can make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
But coach Steve Prohm said postgame it was the best he'd felt about the team in weeks.
"As crazy as it sounds, it's probably the first time in a long time that I felt complete," Prohm said. "I thought we competed the right way today.
"I think they just decided, 'We've got to get back to who we really are.'"
3-point defense continues struggling
Iowa State had a solid defense for the first three months of the season. Apart from a breakdown in the second half against Iowa and late struggles against Arizona, the Cyclones were producing the best defensive numbers of the Prohm era.
Then, February and March happened. The Cyclones have fallen from the top-20 in adjusted defense to 69th in KenPom's rankings after the loss to Texas Tech.
What does Prohm think the biggest culprit is? The 3-pointers opponents have been hitting with a blistering frequency against Iowa State.
"We have got to stay true to our principles," Prohm said.
Texas Tech hit 11 of its 26 3-point attempts, the fourth time in eight games the Cyclones have given up more than 10 threes.
Some ways players and coaches described today's game:- "better"- "complete"- "tough"- "disappointing"My story on Iowa State's end to the season and what the team feels going forward. #Cycloneshttps://t.co/miPAr0G3sd— Aaron Marner (@A_Mar32) March 9, 2019
In transition and in ball-screen actions, the Cyclones allowed Tech to create wide open opportunities, including two in the final minute of the first half, cutting a 36-28 Iowa State lead to 36-34 at the half.
Iowa State looked energized on the defensive end Saturday, but 3-point defense will likely make or break the Cyclones in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.
Wigginton for three
Lindell Wigginton has one of the most unique abilities in basketball: he's able to get to the line on 3-point attempts at a ludicrous rate.
The sophomore guard's propensity to draw fouls on long-range shots has become a running joke throughout the season, but Saturday's game neared jumping-the-shark territory.
Three times, a Texas Tech defender made contact with Wigginton while he was in the middle of his release. Three times, he went to the line for three free throws. All in all, Wigginton attempted 14 free throws Saturday.
Everybody gets a trio of tacos from Taco Bell since Wigginton was fouled three times on 3s. Good work, everyone— Travis Hines (@TravisHines21) March 9, 2019
But he only made nine of them. Wigginton is shooting 71.2 percent from the free throw line after going 66 percent from the stripe in 2017-18. Wigginton's — and the rest of the Cyclones' — inability to be convert from the free throw line is one of a few baffling developments from the 2018-19 season.
Balanced offensive production
One of the positive things for Iowa State fans to take away from Saturday's loss was the offensive balance Iowa State showed.
During the 2-6 run to end the regular season, there were games where the Cyclones would have one or two players in double figures. The imbalance in those games showed, as Iowa State was unable to find offense when it needed it, despite the team's overall numbers not changing drastically.
Four Cyclones reached double figures against Texas Tech, and all four scored at least 13 points.
Lindell Wigginton and Marial Shayok — the team's leading scorers — scored 17 apiece, Talen Horton-Tucker scored 13 points off the bench and Michael Jacobson added 15 of his own.
Texas Tech's defense in the best statistically in the Big 12. That the Cyclones were able to score 70-plus and keep themselves in the game until the last two minutes is likely a welcome sight to Prohm and his coaching staff.
Iowa State's offense was the highest-scoring in the Big 12 at 77.5 points per game, but Saturday was the most put-together performance on offense since the team's win at No. 18 Kansas State on Feb. 16.