NEW YORK — So many times this wild season has Iowa State looked at the scoreboard to find itself in a big hole. This was the case in early December against Northern Iowa and again just last week versus North Carolina, down eight with around five minutes left.
For the most part, the Cyclones lived to tell about it, using the statistic — eight wins after overcoming deficits of 10 points or more — as a grain of comfort.
And so it was no surprise Friday night at Madison Square Garden that the Cyclones, down 17 in the second half, roared back against UConn to make the Huskies sweat.
It wasn't enough, the Cyclones falling 81-76 to the No. 7 seed Huskies in the Sweet Sixteen, putting an end to a terrific season that saw ISU jump out to a 14-0 record, win the conference tournament for the first time since 2000 and advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tourney, also for the first time since 2000.
Naz Long hit his customarily clutch corner three-pointer to make the lead four points with two minutes left, but UConn's Niels Giffey responded right back with a triple of his own. The next few minutes saw the teams trade barbs and fouls. Iowa State couldn't get over the hump.
Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim, ISU's career leader in career games started, and DeAndre Kane, the Big 12 tourney's Most Outstanding Player, were not their usual selves in their final Iowa State appearances. Ejim shot 3-for-13, Kane went 6-for-18.
Despite their struggles, the Cyclones (28-8) were able to tread water thanks to an outstanding effort from Dustin Hogue (a career-best 34 points for the Yonkers, N.Y., native). Had the Huskies not shot above their average from distance (47.4 percent), had the Cyclones converted myriad close attempts in both transition and the halfcourt, it could have swung the result.
UConn point guard Shabazz Napier did his thing, scoring 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but was not as effective once the Cyclones primarily switched Monté Morris onto him. Instead, it was 6-foot-9 wing DeAndre Daniels who carried the Huskies into the Elite Eight — where they'll face the later winner of Virginia/Michigan State — with 23 points and nine rebounds on 10-for-15 shooting.
Iowa State struggled in the halfcourt without Georges Niang, the team shooting 9-for-29 in the first half..