A strong defensive performance in its last game carried over for the Cyclones on Tuesday against Southern Mississippi.
Iowa State routed the Golden Eagles by a score of 73-45, thanks in no small part to its defensive play.
"I think we're capable defensively," said guard Tyrese Haliburton. "There's been stretches where we've looked really good defensively."
The Cyclone defense was all over the place — holding the Golden Eagles to only 33.3 percent shooting from the floor, zero percent shooting from three-point range and only allowed two free throws — one of which was converted.
Iowa State's three-point defense had been subpar to this point in the season, so this was an improvement for the Cyclones in that respect.
The Cyclones also forced 20 turnovers with Halliburton leading the team in steals with three. Rasir Bolton, Prentiss Nixon and George Conditt IV all picking up one as well.
Conditt was especially active on defense. The sophomore amassed four blocks to go with his steal. Conditt is averaging four blocks per game on the season despite only averaging 17.3 minutes a game making his per 40-minute average 9.2 blocks per game.
Despite the aggressive defense from Conditt, the Golden Eagles did not earn many trips to the foul line.
"We've always been a low foul team," said coach Steve Prohm. "I think the year before I got here they were a low foul team and it's kind of stayed suit.
The Cyclones only had 10 fouls in the game with only two coming in the first half.
The biggest story for this defense is not in the free throw attempts given up — with that being something Prohm said was pretty standard — but rather in the three-point defense.
The Golden Eagles shot 0-16 from three and while they have not been a good three-point shooting team all season, the Cyclones were able to close out well on its shooters to force the result.
"I don't know if we can take all the credit for them not making a single three-pointer," said guard Pentiss Nixon. "I think we made steps in the right direction, [running] people off the three-point line."
Iowa State's offense at times struggled with three-point shooting being a concern again, but the Cyclones erased all chances of an upset with disciplined and active defense.
Something the defense had trouble with however, was defensive rebounding. Since the Golden Eagles missed on 44 of their 66 shot attempts, the Cyclones had ample opportunities to pull down defensive boards — but Southern Mississippi snagged 13 offensive rebounds.
Forwards Solomon Young, Michael Jacobson, Zion Griffin and Conditt were out-positioned many times in the paint with the Golden Eagles selling out some defense for offensive rebound opportunities.
Iowa State could live with this result since its defense played so well, but against stronger offensive competition the Cyclones might have a problem grabbing loose balls.
From two, Southern Mississippi shot a pedestrian 44 percent (22-50) — with many of its shots coming from outside the paint.
"We're a low [turnover], we're a high assist team and we don't foul but don't get to the free throw line," Prohm said. "That's kind of been Iowa State."
Iowa State's ability to force bad shots was on full display and the Golden Eagles never planned around it leading to an ugly offensive performance from them.
Guard Gabe Watson went 1-14 from the field in 25 minutes of play for Southern Mississippi.
Iowa State will need its defense to step up like it did on Tuesday as it plays some much better opponents starting next week in the Bahamas.