No. 17 Iowa State hung on long enough to have a chance to top Iowa on Friday night, and in the end the Cyclones came through, winning 85-82. Here are 10 thoughts from the end.
Friday, Dec. 13, is quickly slipping into Dec. 14, and the Cyclones have three A-grade, top-shelf, window-dressing, cliché-cliché resume wins to brag about come March, with the opportunity for many more to come once conference play begins.
Using current Kenpom.com rankings, let's jog through Iowa State's four best wins:
1. 85-82 over Iowa (kenpom 16).
2. 77-70 over Michigan (20).
3. 90-88 at BYU (42).
4. 91-82 in OT over UNI (123).
An experienced list-maker, I'd like to stretch that puppy into the Cyclones' five best wins, but there's really only four good ones. UNC-Wilmington, Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, UMKC and Auburn are horrible basketball teams. But that's OK, because Nos. 1-3 have been damn good, and No. 4 is actually pretty quality.
No. 133 George Mason is next, in lovely Hawai'i.
Georges Niang, as one reporter awkwardly/hilariously suggested Friday night in a question to Melvin Ejim, isn't the fastest guy, and he doesn't have any hops, and his conditioning needs work, and he reaches for too many silly fouls, but …
… It doesn't really matter on a night like this one, when he scored 24 points in 33 minutes on 8-for-15 shooting and made two big free throws at the tail end.
A pretty menu of post moves helps Niang down low, and Friday he went to work against Iowa's Adam Woodbury, who'd foul out. Niang began the game 2-for-3 on the right block and throughout the contest used baby hooks and spin moves to score nearly at will. His last basket, the go-ahead bucket, was a smooth reverse layup.
"Saw [my defender] playing my topside so I drove it baseline," Niang said.
Said Fred Hoiberg afterward: "I have no idea how we won that game."
As Iowa coach Fran McCaffery pointed out, a Hawkeyes 49-35 glass advantage should have been enough to secure a win, but Iowa State attempted 36 free throws to Iowa's 21 and, while both teams shot similar clips from the field and free throw line, the Hawkeyes missed some free throws they should have had at the end, and they also were only 4-for-17 from the three-point line.
In regards to the discrepancy in foul shots, well, that was, "real funny," McCaffery said.
Aaron White, what a player. In 32 minutes, Iowa's star dropped in 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He only missed four shots. Four.
An excerpt from a premium — like, costs money, but half the price our competition — sidebar after the game on Iowa State's late-game, up-by-three foibles:
Hoiberg afterward looked like he had gone 12 times too many on the merry go-round. Jolted, out of breath. A Diet Coke helped steady him."I'm so shaken a little bit because I just expected that thing to go in," he said. "The fans were loud and the rim was maybe shaking a bit and it bounced out."
DeAndre Kane was bad on the surface, going 1-for-6 and scoring just five points.
But he wasn't that bad. Nine assists, one turnover, a steal, 3-for-5 from the free throw line.
"He's something, huh," Niang said afterward of Kane.
A Cyclone who didn't play well, on any surface, was Matt Thomas, who shot timidly and didn't play with much confidence, getting up some ugly looks from distance — 0-for-2 there and 1-for-5 overall in 15 minutes. Hoiberg went with Monté Morris in the last few minutes after Naz Long fouled out.
On the season Thomas is 15-for-42 from the three-point line (35.7 percent), which is below expectation of the sweet-shooting freshman, but it's a safe bet he'll heat up sometime in conference play.
Apologies for burying the lede, but Dustin Hogue, what planet are you even from? The JUCO transfer had 16 rebounds and 12 points Friday night, his third consecutive double-double and fourth this season.
Hogue's last three games read as such:
Dec. 2, Auburn: 22 points, 16 rebounds.
Dec. 7, UNI: 17 points, 14 rebounds.
Dec. 13, Iowa: 12 points, 16 rebounds.
Did we mention he leads the Big 12 in rebounding (11.1 per game) and is in the top 15 nationally?
Hoiberg said Hilton was as loud as it's ever been Friday and, as the Iowa State Daily reported, the administration had to turn away students for the first time in memory. Standing-room only for lots of folks. An excellent crowd that lived and died with every make or miss.
"It was awesome," Niang said. "I think the game lived up to the hype every little bit. It was a lot of fun playing in this. … At the end of the day we all know it's a Cyclones state."
The above quote was Niang's press conference walk-off and Hoiberg rolled his eyes and sarcastically said, "Nice, Georges."
Our last note includes the oddest stat of the night:
The Cyclones led for precisely two minutes, 53 seconds.
And the runner-up:
The Cyclones are 3-0 when trailing at halftime.
Actually, that one sort of makes sense, as they're undefeated thus far, no matter what they do.