AMES, IOWA — There was a period of sluggishness and there were moments of self-described ugliness, but what eventually culminated Tuesday was the identity of an Iowa State team more like the version expected.
After the shooting woes from a week prior in Kansas City carried over to Hilton Coliseum in the early minutes against Lamar on Tuesday night, Iowa State used defense to fuel a slow-starting offense, eventually cruising to a 96-59 victory.
“Once we started getting stops and getting it off the glass, I think that was key to us getting out and running and pushing the tempo,” said Georges Niang, who scored 13 in the win. “That’s when we really succeed, when we’re playing fast.”
The early part of Tuesday’s game was anything but fast. The Cyclones started 7-of-24 from field, including 2-of-14 beyond the arc. Open 3s missed the mark and easy inside buckets rimmed out, a here-we-go-again moment for an Iowa State team that shot 29.7 percent a week earlier in a loss to Maryland.
Defensive pressure on Lamar eventually — with 7:40 to play in the first half and trailing 20-17 — sparked an Iowa State run. In closing out the first half, the Cyclones went on a 21-2 spurt, shooting 9-of-16 from the field.
“Then it was fun,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The guys were out there pointing at each other and just playing together, and that’s the thing I liked to see most to close the half and then extend it to start the second.”
The late first-half run was helped by defense that led to transition baskets. The Cyclones scored 14 of their 21 points during the run on six layups and a Monte Morris dunk, accounting for a portion of the team’s 44 total points in the paint.
That defense was helped by tight pressure at the top by Morris, who picked up five steals. Iowa State turned 27 turnovers by Lamar into 44 of its 96 total points.
“I took it upon myself to go out and get them stops,” Morris said. “I feel like that’s when we got rolling.”
Bryce Dejean-Jones’ effort on the boards helped, too. The senior transfer finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in his second-career double-double and didn’t play in the final 10 minutes of the win.
“One of the things [coach] emphasized with me was rebounding,” Dejean-Jones said. “I told him I’d come out here and give it my all in rebounding.”
Iowa State eventually outscored Lamar 79-39 from the beginning of that first-half run to the end of the game. The Cyclones, after assisting on only eight baskets in last week’s loss, assisted on 26 of 36 field goals in this win.
Most importantly, a sluggish pace turned into a running game, helping the Cyclones cruise into Thursday’s matchup with No. 18 Arkansas on a winning note.
“They were doing a really good job slowing us down and mucking it up and making it an ugly game,” Niang said of Lamar's early play. “When we got out there and Bryce got the rebound and was pushing up the floor and we had good pace, I think that’s when we were at our best.”