AMES, Iowa — Iowa State’s Big 12 Championship banner dropped from the rafters at Hilton Coliseum to a thunderous roar from a sellout crowd Friday night.
The No. 14 Cyclones eventually dispatched Oakland 93-82 — the score finishing closer than it became late in the second half — to begin a journey that it hopes ends with adding to that banner. Work remains for Iowa State to do so.
“What’s going to make a difference for us here is if we can consistently find a way to get stops. I think we have guys that are capable of doing it,” Fred Hoiberg said. “That’s going to be the important thing for us and the difference of us being a championship-caliber team is if we can get consistent stops.”
Iowa State and Oakland battled back-and-forth through the first half, the Cyclones starting sluggishly from the field to the tune of 3-of-10 at the game’s first stoppage of play. When Iowa State needed points, it looked no further than its preseason All-Big 12 pick Georges Niang.
Niang scored a career-high 30 points in the win, becoming the 31st player in program history to reach 1,000 career points with a free throw in the first half.
“It’s cool to score 1,000 points,” Niang said. “That’s a minor accomplishment to what I want to do with this team.”
Tied 38-all with 2:24 remaining in the first half, the Cyclones closed on a 7-0 run to go to the break with a lead. Iowa State eventually extended that run to 15-3 into the second half and never looked back.
“I think we played really well offensively,” Niang said. “It’s a little disappointing defensively. I feel like we’d get two stops and really couldn’t propel ourselves to get that third one.”
Five Cyclones scored in double-figures in the win with Bryce Dejean-Jones (20), Dustin Hogue (15), Monte Morris (14) and Naz Long (10) following Niang in the box score. Those five players combined to score 89 of Iowa State’s 93 points in the season-opening victory.
Iowa State extended its lead to 20 with 2:28 remaining before Oakland closed on a 9-0 run. The ISU offense cut its turnover total from six to two in the second half and shot 53.8 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes.
“If we move the ball like we did in the second half, we’ll be a pretty tough team to stop,” Hoiberg said. “I think we had 93 [points] with over three to play and then just couldn’t find a basket there at the end to put the game away for good. It’s fun to watch this team, it’s fun to coach this team, because there are so many weapons.”
“It was just a great atmosphere, I really enjoyed playing out there with the guys and I think we did a great job,” Dejean-Jones said. “We do have to get better defensively, but for the most part I think we did a great job.”