I cannot say that tonight is a "must-win", but it is a "really-would-like-to-win". Iowa State has not won at Oklahoma State since 1988. There have been a lot of really good Iowa State teams that have come up empty in Stillwater. At the same time, it is a game that Iowa State can win if they bring it tonight.
In the Big 12, it is clear that Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas, and Missouri are the 4 best teams in that conference. Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State are going to be battling for those 5-10 spots. Iowa State is currently 1-1 against that group, and this is their one shot at Oklahoma State.
The matchup in this one is going to be like facing a poor man's Kansas. The story is going to be Iowa State's perimeter offense vs. Oklahoma State's interior offense. Their two bigs, Marshall Moses and Darrell Williams, combine for 22 points and 15 rebounds per game. I would expect those numbers to be higher than that, as long as they stay out of foul trouble.
Oklahoma State is 26th in the nation at getting to the free throw line, so guys like Vanderbeken and Ejim have to be careful. At the same time, Oklahoma State fouls a ton, and is a leader in the nation at sending opponents to the foul line (something you do not want to be). Moses averages something around 3-4 fouls/game, and Williams has fouled out 5 times this season thus far. The key is to be smart on defense, and try to use their physical aggressiveness against them in drawing fouls.
Really, when you look up and down the stats, these teams pose an interesting matchup. Iowa State is a better shooting team than Oklahoma State (52.7% eFG% vs. 49.8%), committs less turnovers than Oklahoma State (16.8% of possessions vs. 20.6%), while Oklahoma State is slightly better on the offensive boards (33.3% Oreb % vs. 30.8%), and has a big edge in getting to the foul line as mentioned above.
Keys To The Game, After The Jump!
Keys To The Game:
1. Stay out of foul trouble. Those bigs draw a lot of fouls, so Vanderbeken, Godfrey, and whomever else comes in needs to be smart. Dont' allow the easy 3 point play; If you are going to foul, don't let them get a shot off. If the refs let the guys play a little, I think Godfrey has the potential to at least slow some of these post players down. I said this is going to have a feel similar to Kansas. If Kansas had shot better than 60% from the free throw line, it probably would have been a 10-15 point game, especially when you factor Iowa State shot less than 30% from beyond the arc.
2. Make 3 point baskets. Oklahoma State's opponents are only shooting 33% from beyond the arc, while Iowa State comes into tonight shooting 39% from beyond the arc. The hot shooting needs to continue, and hopefully Iowa State can find the open guy like they did against Baylor.
3. Ejim needs to step up offensivley. Vanderbeken and Christopherson are not going to shoot a collective 75% from three every game. DG is not going to be able to score 20 points/game every night. Ejim has been getting schooled a bit by some of the better bigs in the conference, having scored only 6 against Kansas and 4 against Baylor. He scored 12 points, and hit a big 3 when Christopherson was having an off night against Nebraska. If he can get in the 12-16 point range tonight, I love Iowa State's chances.
WILDCARD: Diante Garrett's health. He has been sick with the flu the last couple of days. Anybody who watched the Nebraska game could visually see his impact on the team and how much he means to their success. If he cannot play at the level he's been playing the last few games, we have no shot. Jake Anderson and Bubu Palo do not pose a real scoring threat, and having Jake as the primary ball handler would limit his ability to do what he's been doing best this year: grab boards. Having DG in there, forces the other team to honor the drive a bit more, making it harder to defend the outside shooters. Take that away from the team, and they are toast.