CONWAY, S.C. — Iowa State gave coach Steve Prohm the response he wanted to see.
Donovan Jackson scored a career-high 26 points while the Cyclones overcame their shooting struggles to beat Appalachian State 104-98 in Thursday’s first round of the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The Cyclones (1-2) entered shooting 39 percent, but finished at 52 percent with 10 3-pointers. There was also an efficient second-half stretch that put Iowa State up double figures and kept them out front the rest the night, allowing them to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 1990-91 season.
“I thought everything was a lot better,” Prohm said. “We’ve been preaching about the right way to play. We don’t run a lot of sets. I don’t want to walk it up and run sets. I want to move the basketball, play with great pace, cut, share the ball.
“And when we were moving the ball and not holding it, we got good action.”
Indeed. The Cyclones led by 18 points, then kept the Mountaineers (2-1) at arm’s distance in the highest-scoring game in the 11-year history of the Tip-Off — which is being played in South Carolina due to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.
Iowa State ran off a pair of 12-2 bursts in the second half, including one stretch in which the Cyclones scored on 10 of 14 possessions.
Freshman Justin Forrest scored a season-high 32 points for the Mountaineers, including a tournament-record 26 points after halftime. Ronshad Shabazz scored 21 of his 32 points before halftime in a two-man show for Appalachian State.
“We’ve got to be better than we were today,” coach Jim Fox said. “I thought we went through some spells there where we tried to play as people we were not. And what happens is it carries over to the defensive end and we really struggled there — and our bad offense led to bad defense.”
Iowa State: Iowa State needed this one. The Cyclones had lost four starters after reaching a sixth straight NCAA Tournament, and they were coming off Tuesday’s 74-56 loss to Milwaukee — the program’s first loss in a home opener in 20 years — that prompted Prohm to say: “We’ve got to demand more from everybody.” They responded by getting five players in double figures and taking a 44-38 rebounding advantage.
“I thought we made some strides the past couple days,” Prohm said.
Appalachian State: One of the nation’s top-scoring offenses had to rely completely on Shabazz and Forrest this time. The rest of the Mountaineers scored 34 points on 10-for-29 shooting.
“The problem we had is when all of a sudden the ball stopped … and we tried to go 1-on-1 with no swing of the ball,” Fox said. “That’s just not who we are.”
Jackson’s break-loose performance was big news for the Cyclones. The senior was a 3-point threat off the bench last year, but he had scored just 10 points on 4-for-20 shooting through the first two games in a bumpy transition to a bigger role. He made 7 of 11 shots, 4 of 7 3-pointers and all eight free throws in 25 minutes Thursday.
Prohm had Nick Weiler-Babb work more at the point. The junior finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“It was good setting the pace,” Weiler-Babb said. “For the most part we’ve been kind of walking it down, we’ve been a slow-paced team the past two games, so we had to switch that. It was good having the ball in my hands having to make decisions, just being able to determine what’s going to happen on that play.”
Iowa State: The Cyclones advanced to play Tulsa in Friday’s winner’s bracket.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers will play Western Michigan on Friday.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap