AMES — The prevailing thought coming into the season was that it would be a good thing for Iowa State if star forward Craig Brackins’ stats were not as gaudy as they were a year ago.
Well, they aren’t so far — Brackins is averaging 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds compared with 20.2 and 9.5 from ’08-09 — but it’s not made a difference in the won-lost column.
The Cyclones are 11-4 heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. Big 12 Conference opener at Hilton Coliseum against No. 1-ranked Texas.
Last year at this time? Same record.
Defensive pressure on the 6-10 junior has been turned way up this year. Brackins is being double- and sometimes triple-teamed when the ball is passed to him in the post.
Coach Greg McDermott is working with Brackins on how to handle the increased attention opponents are paying in order to prevent him from scoring. It’s clearly frustrated Brackins, who hopefully is not regretting his decision to pass up the NBA.
Brackins’ assist total (40) nearly matches his season-long totals as a freshman (41) and sophomore (43).
But it’s clear that to make the postseason run most everybody thought they would, the Cyclones need him to score and score in bunches.
“Craig is seeing a double team almost every time that he touches the basketball,” McDermott said. “The problem with that is that even when you don’t get a double team, you are thinking that it is coming so you are a little bit tentative when you catch the basketball. Obviously that is affecting him a little bit mentally right now. It is something that we have to get him through.”
Brackins had 19 20-point games last season and three where he scored 30 or more.
Where he really turned it on was during the Big 12 season. Brackins scored a league-best 348 points, which was the 10th-most in a single season in conference history.
Brackins has had just four 20-plus point games this year and none over 30.
Opponents have held him down of late. Since going off for 28 points Dec. 11 in a win over Iowa, Brackins has averaged 14.2 points over ISU’s last five games.
Maybe the conference season is just what he needs to get him going.
“I just have to play my game, man,” Brackins said this week. “Just don’t let things get to me, feed off my teammates and have trust in my teammates.”