The early-season matchup gave Iowa State’s fifth-year coach pause. His initial thoughts? “Concerned,” he admitted Monday night.
That thought was shared after No. 14 Iowa State (2-0) pulled away and left behind Georgia State with an 81-58 victory at Hilton Coliseum. The Panthers made things difficult early with a match-up zone that disrupted the pace of Iowa State’s offense.
The biggest barrier the Cyclones needed to overcome, however, were shots that simply didn’t fall early. Iowa State went to the break with a six-point lead, but shot 4-of-15 from beyond the arc and uncharacteristically missed others inside of it.
“Going into the first half we were tight, we were scared to make plays a little bit,” guard Monte Morris said. “Coach wanted us to pick up the pace a little bit. That was the key at halftime, we wanted to come out with better pace, and we did in the second half. We got good shots, got the ball moving and everything went well.”
The Cyclones started the second half on a 7-0 run to take a double-digit lead on the Panthers, a team that helped draw 27 NBA scouts to Hilton Coliseum for the early-season contest, in large part to watch first-round prospect R.J. Hunter, who finished with 21 points. Georgia State wasn’t expected to be an early-season passover on the schedule, and it took Iowa State time to secure an eventual 23-point win.
“Anytime you play a team that plays different and unorthodox — they’re 40 minutes of zone whether it’s the 1-3-1, whether it’s the match-up — it takes a lot of time to prepare for that,” Hoiberg said. “I was really nervous, because we only had two days.”
With Iowa State’s lead back to single-digits at nine following the quick run to begin the second half, Naz Long extended it back to 11 with a layup with 14:23 to play and took a charge on the ensuing defensive possession. The Cyclones never led by less than that total for the remainder of the game.
While Iowa State still managed to go just 4-of-12 from 3-point range in the second half, it scored 46 points on 53 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes while holding the Panthers to a 38.7 percent clip from the field in that time.
“I think sometimes when you don’t make shots, especially open shots, it affects the way you play,” Hoiberg said. “We had a nice stretch where we got stops and we could really get out and run after we did.”
The win proved to be a team effort, especially from the Iowa State starters, who combined to score 76 of the team’s 81 points.
Morris finished with a team-high 19 points while adding five rebounds and nine assists, Long scored 17 points helped by 5 3-pointers, Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points with seven boards and seven assists and Dustin Hogue added another 15 points. Georges Niang quietly tallied his second-career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Cyclones assisted on 23 of their 29 fields goals in the victory.
“We were doing a great job moving the ball around the zone, trying to get open plays for everybody else and shots just weren’t falling [early],” Dejean-Jones said. “Coach just made an emphasis to keep shooting and we make those shots in practice, so we started knocking them down.”