Baylor vs Iowa State : The first-year point guard has started 24 of 25 games this season as a rookie, averaging 7.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while doing a bit of everything for an Iowa State team that is one win away from 20. His 4.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is second-best in college basketball. Haliburton is shooting a staggering 44.6 percent from 3-point range and yet has only attempted a handful in the Cyclones’ last two games entering Tuesday’s contest with Baylor.
“You could tell him to shoot too. We’ve all told him,” coach Steve Prohm said Monday, part jokingly, part serious. “His teammates tell him, we tell him, you could tell him, just put a big article ‘SHOOT’ across the headline. They run him off the line. He’s got a floater. He just loves to pass. We’ve talked to him about, he’s got to be a little bit more aggressive and I think that’ll help everybody.”
Haliburton’s affinity for passing has been more noticeable of late as Big 12 opponents have scouted him through two-thirds of the conference season and have begun running him off the 3-point line. The freshman has pump-faked and driven to the lane, most often ending up with a pass.
Haliburton hasn’t attempted a 2-pointer in either of the last two games, and has attempted only 13 in 12 conference games. His drives have helped lead to eight assists in the last two games, particularly open 3s for teammates in the corner. But Iowa State would also like to see a stronger dose of shots.
“Sometimes you get in there and that’s a great shot,” Prohm said. “If guys run him off the line, he’s skilled enough to go make plays, so I’m fine with them running him off the line because he’s a great decision-maker, great basketball IQ. But whether it’s floaters or pull-up jumpshots he’s got to be a little more aggressive. Sometimes we’re turning down good shots to see if we can get a great shot, but sometimes that good shot is pretty good and we need to take it.”
“In the moment, usually once I shot-fake there’s somebody running at me so I’m thinking to shot-fake and go by them,” Haliburton said. “The thing about it is coincidentally the ones I do pass up usually lead to either a worse shot or a turnover, so those are the ones that get under my skin. I think it’s just in the flow of the game and I see something different than what’s happening.”
Recently, Haliburton sat in Prohm’s office dissecting film when a recent scoring opportunity instead led to him passing the ball out of the lane.
“This isn’t a conversation I usually have with people this far into the season,” Prohm joked with his ball-handling freshman.
“I didn’t realize I was that open, coach,” Haliburton told him.
Prohm is certainly not critical of his freshman. The passing ways are simply another step in the development and evolution of his game. The long, lanky freshman has quickly drawn national praise since entering Iowa State’s starting lineup and has one of the best offensive ratings in the country.
In some ways, Haliburton’s game management and cerebral nature has provided a calming effect when he’s on the court, whether he’s shooting the ball or not.