Unranked ISU relishes the underdog role

Cyclones hope to avenge a 76-69 home loss to No. 8 Missouri Wednesday night

Published: February 28 2012 | 9:29 am - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 1:25 pm in
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AMES — Iowa State's Royce White bristled in October upon learning Big 12 basketball coaches had picked his team to finish eighth in the league.

“It makes me angry because I know how hard they work — my teammates,” White said then. “It doesn’t make me personally angry because I’ve always been an underdog. I’m an underdog in life.”

Anger has been replaced with a bemused smile.

White’s still-unranked Cyclones (21-8, 11-5) enter Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game at No. 8 Missouri (25-4, 12-4) intent on delivering another upset.

Underdogs?

Yes.

And loving it.

“Our guys motivate each other pretty well,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team hopes to avenge a 76-69 home loss to Missouri. “They get after each other in practice. We’re well prepared going into games and guys execute the game plan.”

Hoiberg felt his team did that against the guard-driven Tigers in the first meeting, but couldn’t match their intensity on the boards.

Missouri outrebounded the Cyclones 36 to 25 and 10 to seven on the offensive glass.

One reason: Reserve big man Steve Moore, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 16 minutes.

Ricardo Ratliffe added 12 points and eight boards for the Tigers.

“Ratliffe had his way with us,” Hoiberg said. “Steve Moore had a career high. That’s what beat us was their bigs.”

And that hasn’t happened much.

Missouri’s guards, including leading scorer Marcus Denmon, form a slick-shooting straw that stirs a potent offense.

Cyclone defensive stopper Chris Babb held Denmon to just eight points in the first meeting.

“I don’t know if there’s been an article written about it, but there should be one because what he’s done this year on the defensive end is amazing,” said Cyclone guard Scot Christopherson, who’s averaging 23.7 points over the past three wins.

There have been multiple mentions of Babb’s defensive prowess, which he shrugs off as simply a necessary component to his diverse game.

“It’s just a mentality; it’s just all about wanting to win,” Babb said. “If that means not making a shot but not letting their man score, that’s not a big deal to me at all.”

What Babb, White, Christopherson and the rest of the Cyclones have achieved is a big deal.

They’ve won as many as 11 conference games for the third time in program history and appear a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament.

But underdog habits die hard — for good reason.

“I know how it can go bad and wrong, particularly at the end when you think it’s supposed to go one way and it goes another,” White said. We’ve just got to stay focused and hungry. We can go from a team that’s doing some good things to a team that’s doing some great things.”

AMES — Iowa State's Royce White bristled in October upon learning Big 12 basketball coaches had picked his team to finish eighth in the league.

 “It makes me angry because I know how hard they work — my teammates,” White said then. “It doesn’t make me personally angry because I’ve always been an underdog. I’m an underdog in life.”

 Anger has been replaced with a bemused smile.

 White’s still-unranked Cyclones (21-8, 11-5) enter today’s 7 p.m. game at No. 8 Missouri (25-4, 12-4) intent on delivering another upset.

 Underdogs?

 Yes.

 And loving it.

 “Our guys motivate each other pretty well,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team hopes to avenge a 76-69 home loss to Missouri. “They get after each other in practice. We’re well prepared going into games and guys execute the game plan.”

 Hoiberg felt his team did that against the guard-driven Tigers in the first meeting, but couldn’t match their intensity on the boards. 

 Missouri outrebounded the Cyclones 36 to 25 and 10 to seven on the offensive glass.

 One reason: Reserve big man Steve Moore, who scored 10 pointds and grabbed nine rebounds in just 16 minutes.

 Ricardo Ratliffe added 12 points and eight boards for the Tigers.

 “Ratliffe had his way with us,” Hoiberg said. “Steve Moore had a career high. That’s what beat us was their bigs.”

 And that hasn’t happened much.

 Missouri’s guards, including leading scorer Marcus Denmon, form a slick-shooting straw that stirs a potent offense.

 Cyclone defensive stopper Chris Babb held Denmon to just eight points in the first meeting.

 “I don’t know if there’s been an article written about it, but there should be one because what he’s done this year on the defensive end is amazing,” said Cyclone guard Scot Christopherson, who’s averaging 23.7 points over the past three wins. 

 There have been multiple mentions of Babb’s defensive prowess, which he shrugs off as simply a necessary component to his diverse game.

 “It’s just a mentality; it’s just all about wanting to win,” Babb said. “If that means not making a shot but not letting their man score, that’s not a big deal to me at all.”

 What Babb, White, Christopherson and the rest of the Cyclones have achieved is a big deal.

 They’ve won as many as 11 conference games for the third time in program history and appear a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. 

 But underdog habits die hard — for good reason.

 “I know how it can go bad and wrong, particularly at the end when you think it’s supposed to go one way and it goes another,” White said. We’ve just got to stay focused and hungry. We can go from a team that’s doing some good things to a team that’s doing some great things.”

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