PROVO — After missing the last two games due to a lower abdominal strain, BYU’s Tyler Haws is expected to be back in action.
And the Cougars will need him Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU) when they host No. 21 Iowa State.
The Cyclones (3-0) are fresh off an upset of then-No. 7 Michigan, 77-70, last Sunday, a monumental victory that propelled them into this week’s top 25.
BYU (4-0) is hoping to pull off a similar feat in front of what's expected to be a big crowd at the Marriott Center.
The Cougars' last homecourt win over a ranked nonconference opponent came against No. 14 Pittsburgh, 93-73, in 1986.
Haws returned to practice Tuesday after sitting on the bench for last weekend's games against Mount St. Mary’s and Colorado Mesa.
“I hate sitting out. I hate being on the sidelines,” Haws said. “It’s not fun. I was proud of our guys. A lot of guys stepped up and played well. We had two good wins and it’s something we can build on.”
It’s not known how much Haws will play, or how effective he can be, following the layoff.
“I think I’m going to play,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I practiced today. I’ll be ready to go.”
“I know Ty’s a big-game player,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “Hopefully he feels well enough to play how he wants to play.”
This is certainly a big game that could have big implications that extend into March. Freshman Eric Mika said the fact Iowa State is ranked now makes it an even bigger game.
“It does a little bit, because it will show the country we can play with anyone, if we play to the best of our ability. If we beat them, it will look better for our chances to get into the (NCAA) tournament.”
While Haws is returning after missing the last two games, Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim had sat out of his team’s first two contests with a hyperextended knee. The 6-foot-6 Ejim scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his return in the victory over the Wolverines.
“Ejim is a beast inside,” Haws said. “He rebounds really well and finishes really well.”
While the Cyclones don’t have much size, they are relentless rebounders.
“One of our biggest (points of) emphasis is rebounding,” Mika said. “Their frontline is a little bit undersized, but they rebound like crazy. We’ve got to keep them off the boards so we can run (and) do our thing.”
“They’re physical inside and rebound really well,” Haws said. “We’ve been talking about rebounding for a while. If we can get all five guys to go to the boards on the defensive end, we can get out in transition and play our game.”
“We’ve got to be very aggressive on the boards,” said guard Kyle Collinsworth, who suffered a minor hip injury last Saturday but will play Wednesday. “We’ve got to rebound well on the offensive end and the defensive end. They attack. We’ve got to box out.”
Iowa State, which pounded BYU last year in Ames, Iowa, 82-63, is also a good 3-point shooting team. Guards Naz Long and DeAndre Kane average 15.7 and 13.7 points, respectively.
“They’re very athletic, strong and physical. That’s an interesting mix,” Rose said. “Usually, really strong, physical teams rely more on getting the ball in the block. This team really shoots the ball well. A lot of times, those long shots lead to long rebounds. Our guards have to react. I know our big guys will be physical, but I wouldn’t be surprised, if this game is played the way it needs to be played for us to win, if our one of our guards isn’t our leading rebounder.”
The Cougars know they're in for a tough test against the Cyclones.
“Iowa State’s a team that doesn’t go away. They just keep battling,” Haws said. “They hit big shots. They have a lot of shooters. They just battle inside. Those are all things we have to combat.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company