Wigginton, Lard emerging for rebuilding Iowa St.
AMES — Iowa State remains in last place in the Big 12 after beating a ranked opponent for the third time in three weeks last Saturday.
Yet, how the Cyclones beat then-No. 17 Oklahoma reminded the rest of the league that their time in the cellar could be short lived.
Iowa State (13-11, 4-8 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma 88-80 on Saturday thanks to the performances of its cornerstone freshmen, Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard.
Wigginton outshone fellow newcomer Trae Young with 26 points, including a back-breaking 3 with 1:16 left, and Lard had 19 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
Lard was named the Big 12’s newcomer of the week on Monday, a day before the Cyclones host No. 13 Kansas.
“When (Wigginton) plays well and Cameron plays well, we’ve been pretty successful,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
Wigginton has been a crucial piece for Iowa State since November. But he’s taken on more responsibility than ever with junior point guard Nick Weiler-Babb out with tendinitis in his knee. Prohm said that Weiler-Babb is questionable to play against the Jayhawks.
Wigginton, a natural point guard who had been playing off the ball in an effort to focus on scoring, has had at least four assists in each of his last four games.
Wigginton also leads the Cyclones with 16.3 points per game and is shooting 43.5 percent on 3s.
“Let’s not overthink this thing. He’s a good player. He has the ability to put the ball in the hole. Great athlete, great size,” Prohm said. “He’s learning this position on the fly, and I think he can become very good at it. But I think he’s got a great deal of confidence in himself.”
It took a lot longer for the 6-foot-9 Lard to crack the starting lineup than it did for Wigginton. But it has become clear over the past three weeks that Lard is one of the more promising young post players in the country.
Lard is averaging 15.6 points and 10 rebounds a game over last eight outings. The Cyclones don’t run many plays for Lard, who instead gets the majority of his points on putbacks and dunks and has risen all the way to 24th nationally by shooting 64.4 percent from the floor.
Lard hit 17 of the 22 shots he took last week — including a 10 for 11 against Texas Tech.
Lard’s biggest weakness is at the free throw line, where he shoots just 53.3 percent, but that can be improved in the offseason.
“He might not get the touches down low, but he’s running in transition, he’s getting offensive rebounds and putbacks. He’s doing whatever he needs to do to help us win,” Weiler-Babb said. “None of the wins we have this season would be possible if he wasn’t there.”
Despite the emergence of Wigginton and Lard, the Cyclones have been left to battle for an NIT bid in the season’s closing weeks after reaching six straight NCAA Tournaments. But starting next season, expectations for Iowa State will once again be high — and Wigginton and Lard will be the two of the biggest reasons why.