Prior to its trip to Conway, S.C. this week, Iowa State appeared to be headed nowhere fast and staring at a long season, but the decision to allow Nick Weiler-Babb to run the show has Steve Prohm’s young team feeling good about itself again. The Cyclones look to finish off an unlikely run to a regular-season tournament title Sunday when they face Boise State in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
After watching his team score 57.5 points per game in its first two contests and lose by an average of 16.5 points, Prohm opted to put the ball in the hands of his 6-5 junior guard and the results were immediate: Iowa State is scoring 92 points per game while Weiler-Babb is averaging nearly a triple-double in a pair of wins at this event. “Guys have been buying into their roles and coach putting me at the point just opened up a lot of opportunities. … We’re just getting a lot of easy buckets out of transition that we didn’t really do the first two games,” Weiler-Babb told reporters after Friday’s 80-78 victory over Tulsa. The Broncos enter Sunday fresh off a pair of victories, holding off a late rally Thursday to defeat UTEP 58-56 before manhandling Illinois State 82-64. Boise State is playing in its first mid-season title game since 2014 and has never won a three-game regular-season tournament.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT BOISE STATE (4-0): Chandler Hutchison (14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds per game) hasn’t been the most efficient player at this event (8-for-27, eight total turnovers), but he bounced back from a miserable 3-for-14 shooting performance Thursday with 19 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and five assists versus the Redbirds. Sophomore guard Justinian Jessup (14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) has provided a spark off the bench for the Broncos, as he is tied with Hutchison for second on the team in scoring while going 14-of-27 beyond the arc. Boise State enjoyed a plus-30 rebound margin (57-27) over Illinois State, tying an event record for the most team rebounds in a game while also giving the program its biggest rebounding margin in a game since 2012.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (2-2): After averaging 12.5 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists in losses to Missouri and Milwaukee, Weiler-Babb is averaging 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists in South Carolina after setting career highs in rebounds (14) and assists (eight) to go along with 20 points against Tulsa. Donovan Jackson has benefited even more from the change, as the 6-2 Milwaukee native is scoring 25 points per game and has drained eight 3-points at this event after totaling 10 points and two triples in his first two outings. Jakolby Long drilled four 3-pointers and tallied a career-high 17 points in only 18 minutes off the bench Friday; the sophomore guard hit only four 3-pointers and totaled 19 points over his first 12 career games.
1. Weiler-Babb is one of three players nationally and the only player in the Big 12 averaging 17 points, 7.5 rebounds, five assists and shooting 60 percent from the field.
2. Hutchison’s 14 defensive rebounds Friday set a tournament record.
3. The Cyclones are 22-of-51 beyond the arc at this event after shooting 10-for-34 in their first two contests.
PREDICTION: Boise State 85, Iowa State 81