By John Helsley
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OSU’s Big 12 road slump has reached 12 games.
The last time they won in a conference locale: Feb. 17, 2010.
At Iowa State, where the Cowboys will be tonight. Tipoff 8 p.m.
Obi Muonelo went off for 31 points (23 in the second half and 21 straight at one key point) that frigid night in Ames – I was there, freezing on the long walk back to the rental car. And boy, couldn’t the Cowboys use Obi now, lugging this losing steak into Hilton Coliseum tonight?
Still, Ames represents a return to the scene of better times, at least for Keiton Page, the only current Cowboy who was there that night.
“A good place to start back up,” Page said the other day.
Five things worth watching tonight:
1. White(Out). No, blizzard conditions aren’t expected. But warnings have been issued about ISU’s Royce White, a Minnesota transfer who has bolstered the Cyclones, leading the team in scoring (13.4), rebounding (9.6) and assists (4.3) per game. The biggest problem comes with the matchup, as White, at 6-8, 270 pounds, will frequently bring the ball up the floor. And he’s more than capable, reminding Travis Ford of one of his old Kentucky teammates, Jamal Mashburn.
“Maybe not as good a shooter as Jamal Mashburn, he handled the ball like a guard,” Ford said. “Jamal brought the ball up as much as I did when I played. Royce White is going to bring the ball up as much as anybody on their basketball team. His ballhandling skills are as good as any of the point guards I’ve seen in the league. He understands angles, understands drawing contact. He’s a very, very impressive basketball player. And he makes everyone else around him better.”
So who gets White? Not Page. Maybe Brian Williams or Markel Brown. It’s a critical matchup.
2. Cover Up. White isn’t the only Cyclone creating concern. ISU has six players averaging 7.5 points or more, and a deep and versatile bench. And after facing a barrage of 3-point shots by Baylor Saturday, the Cowboys get the Big 12’s best 3-point shooting team tonight, with the Cyclones averaging 9.1 long balls a game.
3. Don’t Underestimate. The ’Clones are just 2-2 in the Big 12 and enter on a two-game losing streak, but the setbacks came against two top-10 teams, No. 5 Missouri and No. 7 Kansas.
4. Stepping Up. Le’Bryan Nash’s roller-coaster ride of a rookie season continues. After a strong performance in a win over Oklahoma, Nash took a step back at Baylor, making just 2-of-12 shots and backing down from the challenge. The Cowboys need the good Nash tonight. And the good Page, Brown, Williams and Cobbins, too.
5. Board Wars. Lacking height, the Cowboys routinely have trouble on the boards. Even when OSU got stops at Baylor, it frequently struggled to secure rebounds, leading to too many second chances. Brown and Williams, while guards, can help on the boards by crashing and using their leaping ability. And they’ll need to, with the Cyclones outrebounding 14 of 17 opponents thus far.