Iowa State eyes strong start in opener vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff

The cloud of COVID-19 is not the only uncertainty facing Iowa State to open this already unique college basketball season.

With plenty of new faces mixed in with some experience back from a disappointing 2019-20 campaign, the Cyclones tip off their season against visiting Arkansas Pine Bluff on Sunday in Ames, Iowa.

For the second time in three seasons, Iowa State finished with a losing record in going 12-20 in 2019-20. Since then, star Tyrese Haliburton was drafted by the Sacramento Kings and junior guard Rasir Bolton (14.7 points per game in 2019-20) is the only returning player who averaged double-figure points for the Cyclones last season.

In fact, Iowa State welcomes seven new players into the mix as the team tries to rebound from that rough showing last season, while also dealing with a global pandemic that’s already forced games to be postponed and canceled across the country.

“I think our end goal is obviously to get to March (and the NCAA Tournament),” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm told the Des Moines Register.

“There’s no question, it’s not going to be perfect in any scenario.”

Physically getting to the actual month of March might not be a major problem for the Cyclones. However, making the NCAA Tournament seems like quite the hurdle to clear for Iowa State. At least right out of the gate.

The Cyclones averaged 72.0 points per game last season, but shot 43.9 percent and made just 31.6 percent of their 3-point attempts. They also gave up 73.0 points per contest.

However, Prohm is banking on the addition of graduate transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands, who averaged 11.1 points for DePaul last season, and junior transfer Javan Johnson (10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds per game for Troy in 2018-19) to help the cause and keep the Cyclones competitive in the Big 12.

How long that takes to happen, however, remains unknown. Just as the squad is uncertain about how this entire season will play out. Regardless, Prohm and his team seem anxious to finally get on the court for action that matters.

“We’ll be ready on Sunday,” Prohm added to the Register. “Will we be perfect? No, not by any means. Is there going to be a lot of growing pains and things you’ve got to go through? No question, but that’s what early-season games are for.”

While Iowa State is set to get its season underway, UAPB (0-2) already has a couple of games within the state of Wisconsin under its belt. The Golden Lions opened their campaign with a 99-57 loss at Marquette and followed with Friday’s 92-58 defeat at No. 7 Wisconsin.

Junior guard Shaun Doss has led UAPB early on, averaging 21.5 points in those two contests. However, the Lions shot 30.3 percent from the field and are just 9 of 34 from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles and Badgers combined to shoot 52.2 percent against them.

Following this contest, the road does not get any easier for Pine Bluff, which is slated to play at Northwestern on Wednesday and visit St. Louis next weekend.

“We’ll face some good teams, and it will allow us to see what we need to improve on,” coach George Ivory told the school’s official website.

Iowa State is 4-0 all-time versus UAPB.

–Field Level Media

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