After opening-season losses to Missouri and Milwaukee, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm was wondering if he had the players to replace four departed seniors who accounted for 73 percent of the scoring, 82 percent of 3-pointers, 56 percent of rebounds and 78 percent of assists. Four weeks later, the Cyclones, led by a talented trio of backcourt players, seek an eighth straight victory when they play Northern Iowa on Saturday in the Hy-Vee Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
Freshman Lindell Wigginton, a 6-2 guard whom many scouting services regarded as the top Canadian prospect in 2017, is averaging in 16.2 points per game - 22.3 in the last four games - while shooting 48.9 percent beyond the arc in 45 attempts. “I’m always confident. I know I can play at this level,” Wigginton told the Iowa State Daily. “The last five games or so, I’ve been more aggressive and that’s what I need to do to help the team win.” Donovan Jackson, a 6-2 senior who averaged 6.4 points last season after transferring in from a junior college program, leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points while shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, and junior Nick Weiler-Babb contributes 12.8 points, a Big 12-leading 7.9 assists (fifth in the nation) and 6.8 rebounds. Northern Iowa, which has lost twice this season - to heavyweights North Carolina by 17 and Villanova by 14 - is seeking a fourth straight win after knocking off Division III Dubuque 80-47 on Sunday with senior forward Bennett Koch leading the way with 12 points and seven rebounds.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, Cyclones.TV
ABOUT NORTHERN IOWA (8-2): Koch, the leading returning scorer from the Panthers’ first losing campaign since 2002-03 (11 points per game in 2016-17), has more than four points a game to his scoring average on 60.7 percent shooting and has doubled his rebounding average to 7.7. The biggest surprise has been freshman Tywhon Pickford, who has started all 10 games and is averaging 9.1 points and an astounding 10.1 rebounds at just 6-4. Sophomore point guard Juwan McCloud is averaging 10.5 points but is shooting only 37 percent from the floor with as many assists as turnovers (24).
ABOUT IOWA STATE (7-2): Jackson scored 25 points and hit a career-best seven 3-pointers, while 6-9 forward Cameron Lard added his second career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds as Iowa State beat Alcorn State 78-58 on Sunday. Weiler-Babb has had double-figure assists in four of the last five games and at least eight assists in six consecutive games. Sophomore forward Solomon Young, the only returning starter from last season, is averaging 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds while Lard, a freshman, chips in 9.3 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes a game off the bench.
1. Iowa State leads the all-time series 36-13, but the Panthers have won four of the last five.
2. Northern Iowa reserve guards Tanner and Wyatt Lohaus are the sons of former Iowa star and NBA player Brad Lohaus.
3. Weiler-Babb, Jackson and Wigginton are contributing 59.6 percent of Iowa State’s points and shooting a combined 43.7 percent from behind the arc.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 86, Northern Iowa 75