LOUISVILLE - Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg saw enough of Kentucky’s win over Western Kentucky to be impressed and know what a challenge his team faces against the No. 1 Wildcats on Saturday night in the NCAA Tournament.
“Look, they're the number one seed in this thing for a reason. They're so talented. The biggest thing we're going to have to try to do is slow them down a little bit,” said Hoiberg. “Just watching that game today, when they can get out and use their athleticism on the break, they're impossible to stop. When they can get out, those bigs run to the rim, that sucks in the defense and opens up 3’s for them. So the biggest thing we have to do is get back and force them to beat you with tough, contested shots.
“And same thing we talked about tonight is trying to control the glass. If you can do that, it gives you a chance. If not, it could get ugly.
“The big thing about this game, it's a home game for them. They had 12,000 at their 40-minute shootaround the other day. It's unbelievable to see the following that they've had. I scouted games at Rupp Arena when I was working at the NBA, and it's an unbelievable atmosphere, and the following is something like I've never seen. Big thing for us, we've got to come out and get off to a good start. Try to give ourselves a chance. If we don't do that, like I said, it could be a long night.”
The Iowa State coach is hoping a competitive Big 12 schedule that included games with Kansas, Baylor, Missouri and Kansas State has the Cyclones ready for this game just like they were against Connecticut in Thursday’s win.
“Our last three games were at Kansas State, at Missouri, and Baylor at home. We felt like we really needed to win one for sure to solidify our berth. We went out and won two, almost three. We almost knocked off Missouri on the road,” ¿Hoiberg said. “It prepares you for this setting. It prepares for you everything we're going to be going up against, certainly for tonight and also for this game on Saturday.
“It's an awesome league. It's fun to coach against the great coaches that we have, and it sets you up for players. It definitely prepares us for what we're going through right now.”