COLUMBIA — Iowa State’s fortunes this season have depended heavily on the play of its sophomore big man.
Six-foot-10 Craig Brackins has been the one constant in the Cyclones' offense, and his 18.5 points per game are second in the Big 12 Conference behind Oklahoma's Blake Griffin. Brackins has won Big 12 player of the week honors twice this season (Dec. 8 and Dec. 29) in leading his team to a 13-5 record.
Missouri (14-3, 1-1)
vs. Iowa State (13-5, 1-1)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
TV:KMIZ Channel 17
With his team traveling to Mizzou Arena on Saturday, Iowa State coach Greg McDermott is still searching for some consistent players in his supporting cast.
“That’s a work in progress,” McDermott said during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “Most of our scoring is coming from guys that are freshmen and sophomores and with that comes some good days and some not-so-good days.”
The rest of the Cyclones, led by Dionte Garrett’s 10.5 points per game, have had trouble picking up the slack when Brackins has an off night. In Iowa State’s five losses, Brackins is scoring 12.8 points per game and shooting slightly better than 34 percent from the field.
Excluding a 91-55 blowout win against SIU-Edwardsville in which Brackins took just six shots in 21 minutes, he is averaging 20.6 points per game on better than 54 percent shooting in Iowa State victories. That includes two games against Northern Iowa and Houston where he surpassed 30 points.
McDermott said he is optimistic that his team’s offense will improve as the season goes on and his young players continue to evolve. He stressed a need for scoring from the perimeter, where Lucca Staiger has stepped up in Big 12 play. The sophomore guard from Germany scored 15 points in a loss at Texas last Saturday and added another 18 in Wednesday’s win against visiting Nebraska.
“He’s a tough kid,” McDermott said. “He’s gradually getting his timing and his conditioning back after missing over a month of practice with knee surgery early in the year. As that has come back, he’s been able to add some things off the dribble to go with his three-point shooting.”
If Missouri hopes to contain Brackins and beat Iowa State on Saturday afternoon, it will have to keep the big man off the boards. Brackins is grabbing nearly nine rebounds per game and has seven double-doubles this season.
“We’re going to get after him like hopefully we get after everybody else,” Anderson said following the Tigers’ 107-62 rout of Colorado. “We’ll make the adjustment as we go but again, our defense hopefully is geared to not let people do what they want to do. That’s been the norm since I’ve been here.”
But that task could be a little more difficult if Anderson doesn’t lift his suspension of forward Leo Lyons. Keith Ramsey, Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford all played significant minutes in the post for Missouri on Wednesday. The three combined for five blocks to go along with six rebounds, which is less than Lyons' season average.
Missouri basketball spokesperson Dave Reiter said Anderson probably won't determine Lyons' availability until Saturday.