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Wigginton, Young closer to returning for Iowa State

December 13, 2018
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Iowa State forward Cameron Lard (2) drives to the basket over Southern University forward Bryan Assie (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 101-65. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Injured Iowa State star Lindell Wigginton’s shirt read “Then What?” when he met with reporters for the first time in weeks Thursday

That’s a question the Cyclones will soon be asking themselves once Wigginton and Solomon Young return to the lineup.

Wigginton (strained foot), a sophomore guard, and Young (strained groin), a junior forward, won’t play on Saturday when the Cyclones (8-2) face Drake (6-1) in the final Big Four Classic in Des Moines. But both could be back within a week, leaving Iowa State coach Steve Prohm with some decisions to make with a roster that will soon feature about a dozen Big 12-caliber players.

“There’s not going to be any drastic changes,” Prohm said. “It’s not really roles changing. At the end of the day it might be a couple of minutes (lost) here or there for a couple of guys.”

No. 22 Iowa (7-2) will face Northern Iowa (4-5) in the second game of a doubleheader. It’s the last season for the six-year-old event, which is being phased out in part because the Big Ten’s push to 20 league games left the Hawkeyes with less wiggle room for their non-conference schedule.

As for Young, he’ll likely come off the bench because Michael Jacobson is flourishing in his first season in Ames, averaging 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a game as the center in Prohm’s four-guard lineup. How Young fits into a rotation that has also featured former starter Cameron Lard in a backup role has yet to be determined.

But Wigginton is too talented to keep in a reserve role, and the Cyclones will likely look to get creative with their minutes once Big 12 play opens on January 2.

Wigginton led Iowa State with 16.7 points a game as a freshman and was the only underclassman to land a spot on the Big 12′s preseason all-league team. When Wigginton got hurt late in this year’s opener though, it opened up a spot for freshman Tyrese Haliburton — and he has quickly become invaluable for the Cyclones.

The emergence of Haliburton, who broke the school record with 17 assists in Sunday’s 101-65 win over Southern, should allow Wigginton, like Haliburton a point guard, to spend more time focused on getting shots than distributing the ball.

“His I.Q. is good. Coming off that 17-assist game, that’s hard for any player in any game,” Wigginton said of Haliburton. “He doesn’t really turn the ball over a lot, and he can really shoot. I really like the way he’s playing right now.”

The nightcap will feature an Iowa team that hasn’t played since beating the Cyclones 98-84 on Dec. 6. That win capped a stretch of six games against major-conference opponents out of seven, and Iowa went 5-2 during that stretch to enter the Top 25.

One of the reasons why the Hawkeyes have played well enough to get ranked has been the play of senior super-sub Nicholas Baer.

Baer is 9 of 15 from 3-point range in his last four games, and he had 14 points with seven rebounds against the Cyclones. Baer, a former walk-on is averaging 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in just over 17 minutes an outing.

“He is incredibly versatile and is playing really well. Playing with great confidence,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “When you’re playing with that kind of confidence, you impact the game in so many different ways and that’s what he does.”

Drake’s 6-1 start under first-year coach Darian DeVries is its best in five years, but the Bulldogs are 0-5 in Big Four games.

Northern Iowa has really struggled this season, losing three straight before beating tiny Dubuque 75-67 on Saturday. The Panthers have been led by freshman A.J. Green, who is averaging 15.8 points a game.

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