AMES — Iowa State point guard Nick Weiler-Babb is out indefinitely with tendinitis in his knee. That alone is a concern for the Cyclone basketball team.
Preparing to face 11th-ranked West Virginia, which is known for its pressure defense and forces 19 turnovers a game, magnifies the challenge tonight at 6 p.m. when Iowa State (11-9 overall, 2-6 Big 12) hosts the Mountaineers (16-5, 5-3) at Hilton Coliseum.
Freshman Lindell Wigginton and senior Donovan Jackson will handle the point guard duties for the Cyclones.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm isn’t concerned with who actually gets the start at point guard.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Prohm said. “Against West Virginia, if Lindell has it, he’ll initiate the offense, and if Donovan has it, he’ll initiate the offense. We want to get into our offense right away (off the press) instead of wasting time and letting them get set up.”
Wigginton came to Iowa State expecting to play more point guard than shooting guard, but his early struggles at the point and the emergence of Weiler-Babb changed that.
In the first two games, Wigginton split time at point guard with Weiler-Babb and Jackson. Wigginton had eight turnovers and six assists in those two games. Jackson didn’t fare much better with four turnovers and no assists.
“I have to talk to these guys about decision-making and pace of play,” Prohm said. “We don’t always have to be in a hurry. This isn’t a game where you’re going to see a bunch of pretty sets, this is a game where you have to make decisions and you have to spread the floor and have great ball movement and then you have to attack.”
Jackson played against West Virginia last year. He had some advice for Wigginton on how to handle the pressure.
“Being strong with the ball,” Jackson said. “They’re going to run at you, talk a lot. They’re going to be as physical as possible to wear you down, but don’t let that get to you.”
Prohm will also try to help his two point guards by getting as many ball-handlers on the floor as possible.
“Does that mean playing four guards at times with Zoran at the 4? Possibly,” Prohm said. “Jakolby (Long) or Terrence (Lewis), obviously one of those guys has to step up.”
The situation is less than ideal for the Cyclones, but Wigginton knows they have to make do with what they have.
“It’s a big miss because Nick’s great with the ball and he’s great handling pressure,” Wigginton said. “Nick’s a big miss, but I’m ready to step up to the challenge and do what I have to do.”