ISU zoned in
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
DES MOINES — Northern Iowa had depth, experience and the more impressive resume.
Iowa State had freshman Lindell Wigginton — who proved once again how much of an impact player he has become.
Wigginton scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half and Iowa State blew past Northern Iowa 76-65 on Saturday for its eighth straight win.
Nick Weiler-Babb had 15 points with nine rebounds for the Cyclones (8-2), who used a 12-0 run midway through the second half to put the Panthers (8-3) in a hole too deep to climb out of.
“I think it’s more about execution and effort and focus than it’s about making a bunch of changes,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said about his team’s second-half surge. “Then we got an offensive spurt and that was the difference.”
The Cyclones can thank their sensational rookie guard for that.
Wigginton scored 11 of 13 points for Iowa State at one crucial point in the second half — a run capped by a deep 3 from the elbow — and Weiler-Babb’s 3-point play made it 59-50 with 7:55 to go.
“He plays with enough patience. He plays the way that’s going to help his team. I think that says a lot about a guy,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said.
Weiler-Babb added another 3 a few minutes later that pushed the lead to 64-54, and Jeff Beverly followed with a 3 that made it 69-56 with just over three minutes to go.
Donovan Jackson scored 10 points for the Cyclones. But he and Weiler-Babb — Iowa State’s top two offensive options beyond Wigginton — combined to shoot just 6 of 22 from the floor.
That’s why Wigginton, who was 7-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds and no turnovers in 40 minutes, proved to be so important for the Cyclones.
“He provided a spark when he came out in the second half. He played 40 minutes. That’s something right there. He pulled the team together,” Weiler-Babb said about Wigginton.
Wyatt Lohaus had 16 points for the Panthers, who shot just 10 of 30 in the second half and just 36 percent overall.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa State: The Cyclones’ winning streak up until Saturday came against a bunch of overmatched opponents and struggling Iowa at home. But this was a big-time victory over a very good Panthers team — and proof that Iowa State just might be a factor in the Big 12 after all. Prohm acknowledged that it was his team’s best victory so far, and it’d be hard to argue that one.
Northern Iowa: This might come back to haunt the Panthers if they can’t win the Missouri Valley’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cyclones are still projected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 standings, though the expectations for Iowa State continue to rise with each passing game. Of course, a win over No. 10 Xavier on Friday at home would go a long way toward rectifying that result.
Northern Iowa’s previous two defeats came against North Carolina and Villanova, and it has already beaten SMU, N.C. State and UNLV. But the Panthers couldn’t get into a shooting rhythm, finishing just 9 of 26 on 3s. Northern Iowa was also outrebounded 42-35, and it didn’t record a block. “I think they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played. They were more physical than we were,” Jacobson said.
Cameron Lard and Beverly also scored 10 points for the Cyclones. … Klint Carlson had 13 with seven boards for the Panthers and Spencer Haldeman scored 12 points off the bench. …The attendance was 13,828, a near-sellout and proof that the fifth annual doubleheader in Des Moines has staying power. … Iowa blasted Drake 90-64 in the opener earlier Saturday.
HE SAID IT
“We had to be physical. We had to move the ball. I thought we had to make tough plays to win. I thought we did that the majority of the day,” Prohm said.
Iowa State: The Cyclones host Maryland-Eastern Shore on Wednesday.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers host No. 10 Xavier on Friday.