One doesn’t have to peel back many layers to realize there are a lot of similarities between 11th-ranked Iowa State and No. 25 Texas Tech.
Both have first-year coaches and rely on defense, ranking first and second in the Big 12 Conference in opponent field-goal percentage. Both teams were reconstructed in the offseason with a wave of transfers.
But when the Cyclones (12-1, 0-1 Big 12) and Red Raiders (10-2, 0-0) collide Wednesday at Ames, Iowa, there is a major difference that separates them.
Wednesday’s game will be Iowa State’s second contest in league play after a 77-72 loss at home to top-ranked Baylor on Saturday. Texas Tech, by contrast, hasn’t stuck a toe in the conference waters and has to do so at one of the league’s tougher venues.
And this revamped version of Iowa State has been surprisingly good under new coach T.J. Otzelberger.
The Red Raiders enter conference play as something of a surprise as well, with losses against then-fifth-ranked Gonzaga and Providence sandwiched around a win vs. then-No. 13 Tennessee.
But the rest of Texas Tech’s schedule has been less daunting, which makes the foray to Ames a concern after the Red Raiders’ original Big 12 opener at home vs. Oklahoma State was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns with the Cowboys.
First-year Texas Tech coach Mark Adams joked about sleepless nights recently, but said his team is eager to finally get into Big 12 play.
“The Big 12 is as good as it’s ever been, and we’re really excited about getting to play,” Adams said. “(The Cyclones) hang their hat on defense and they play with a lot of transfers like us. We expect we’ll get their best shot after the way they played against Baylor.”
In its last outing, Iowa State kept pace with Baylor despite making just 1 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.
The Cyclones’ difficult shooting from beyond the arc came in the face of a respectable 24 of 39 performance on two-point attempts. They also converted 21 of 27 free-throw attempts.
“We want them to have the confidence in those key moments to (make shots), so it will be something as we practice that we continue to build their confidence in that way so they feel like when the reality of the game sets in, they can be successful,” Otzelberger said.
Whether Iowa State sharpens its shooting touch will hinge on how it executes against a Red Raiders’ defense that limits foes to 37.6 percent shooting, in large part because it forces opponents to look for offense outside the paint.
With the defense that Adams has refined during his tenure as a Texas Tech assistant coach, foes usually have to hunt for jump shots in halfcourt sets. The result is the Red Raiders allowing the most 3-pointers made (99) and attempted (319) in the Big 12.
Balancing that out is whether Texas Tech will have the ability to score with Cyclones.
The Red Raiders come in averaging 78.2 points a game and will encounter an Iowa State crew that is allowing 57.7 per contest. Making matters more challenging, Texas Tech’s leading scorer, Terrence Shannon Jr., is expected to miss the game with lingering back spasm issues.
With the Cyclones’ aggressive style — which Adams said is very similar to his team — every possession will be at a premium.
“It’s important for us to keep our composure,” Adams said. “I think it’s going to be a challenge for either team to score.”
–Field Level Media