- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

AMES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State’s offense is an eye-pleasing stream of alley-oops, bank shots and 3s that can make the Cyclones look as dangerous as any team in the country.

Their defense isn’t nearly so pretty.

The 14th-ranked Cyclones (17-6, 7-4 Big 12) have paired their devastating offense with inconsistent defense so far this season. In Big 12 games, Iowa State is first at 77.5 points per game - and last in scoring defense at 73.6.

Fixing the defense is a top priority for the Cyclones, who host No. 21 West Virginia (19-5, 7-4) on Saturday.

“We show flashes. We show stretches when we do it right. When we follow the concepts, we’re pretty good,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Iowa State has the personnel to play strong defense - especially with center Jameel McKay in the post - and at times it’s proven to be tough to score on. But too often, teams get too comfortable playing the Cyclones.

In fact, the last three games are a perfect snapshot of their defensive issues.

The Cyclones allowed 89 points in a loss at Kansas, just 38 in a home blowout of Texas Tech and then 94 in a defeat at Oklahoma on Monday.

Giving up such a high total to the Jayhawks on the road is understandable, given that Kansas has won 20 straight in Lawrence. The Cyclones responded by completely shutting down the Red Raiders, who beat them in Lubbock earlier this season.

Iowa State started strong against the Sooners, too. But the Cyclones let Oklahoma outscore them by 10 points in the final 4 minutes of the first half, and the Sooners shot 58 percent in the second half of an 11-point win.

“I feel like it’s up and down. I feel like, when we have a rough defensive game, we come out and the defense is at a whole (different) level,” Iowa State point guard Monte Morris said. “We’re just trying to get on a straight path.”

Iowa State’s defensive numbers are a bit skewed because of the team’s fast tempo that allows opponents more shots than they usually would get. Opposing teams are also shooting over 73 percent from the free throw line, a number that Iowa State can’t do anything about.

Hoiberg said the Cyclones have to have more of a “trust factor” on defense.

That wasn’t the case in the second half against the Sooners. They found it easy to get into a rhythm against Iowa State’s spotty defense.

“I think it just gets back to us having each other’s back. I think sometimes we lose focus of that, and sometimes focus more on an individual plan on defense, (like) ‘I’ve got my guy. You’ve got your guy.’ But really, it’s as a unit. We’re getting better at it every day,” Iowa State forward Georges Niang said. “Slowly but surely.”

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