AMES - Iowa coach Steve Alford had a little talk the other day with seniors Luke Recker and Reggie Evans.
It proved to be just what the team needed.
Frustrated and disappointed after losing to Northern Iowa on Tuesday, the 12th-ranked Hawkeyes came back with a vigorous effort to beat Iowa State 78-53 on Saturday night.
Just as important, Recker and Evans appear to have come to an understanding of their roles on a team that had not been playing up to expectations.
"Earlier in the season, it was like we were trying to outdo each other instead of playing together," Recker said. "We said it's time to get back to playing together. A John Stockton-Karl Malone deal. Two great players, playing together and doing what we can to help the team."
Recker and Evans talked with Alford on Friday before practice. The team traveled to Ames later that day and the two stars roomed together Friday night.
"We realized we've got to get this ship headed in the right direction," Recker said. "Reggie and I are the leaders of this team. It's not about who does what. It's about who does what as a team. If we win, we're both going to reach our goals."
They certainly set the tone against the youthful, overmatched Cyclones.
Evans scored 24 point and grabbed 17 rebounds. Recker made all three of his 3-point shots in the first half and finished with 14 points. Glen Worley also scored 14 for the Hawkeyes, who outrebounded Iowa State 47-24.
"It's been a long time since we've been pounded on the boards like this, but there are pros on the other team," Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy said, meaning Evans and Recker.
"They're a good team. I've not pulled the wool over anybody's eyes. I just tried to tell you like it was. We just can't match this team right now."
Iowa State did make it a game for a while. After Ricky Morgan fed Omar Bynum for a layup, Iowa State trailed just 42-37 with 15:09 left and the sellout crowd of 14,103 was starting to make noise. Iowa promptly silenced the throng.
First, Evans and Recker combined for six straight points. Then Worley and Ryan Hogan hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. A Chauncey Leslie 3 followed by four straight points from Worley pushed the lead to 61-43 and it was over. The Hawkeyes went on to lead by as many a 27.
"That's a little bit of what this team can do if we keep working," Alford said. "We're a team that's learning. We haven't been together that long. A team like Duke brings that kind of effort every night. For us to do that 30 times takes a lot."
Tyray Pearson led Iowa State with 20 points and Shane Power scored 17. Jake Sullivan, who had been doubtful because of a sprained right knee, played 34 minutes but scored just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Sullivan, the Cyclones' leading scorer for the season, said he had no regrets about trying to play even though he was below par.
"I think it had no bearing on this game," he said. "I think if I was 100 percent or if I played like this, we would have still gotten beat by 25."
The 25 points matched the largest margin in an Iowa State loss at Hilton Coliseum, which opened in 1971. Vanderbilt beat Iowa State 105-80 on Nov. 29, 1975.
"That was embarrassing on our home floor," Sullivan said. "They just whipped us all over the place."