AMES, IOWA — Many words could be used to sum up the Iowa State offense Thursday night, and most of those descriptors wouldn’t be embellishing.
It was an Iowa State offense that at times struggled to miss. It was an Iowa State offense that performed as solidly as just about any has under Fred Hoiberg. It was an offense that… Well, let Georges Niang tell it.
“I think guys were just flying out there,” said Niang, who scored 26 points. “We were really moving the ball, we had great spacing, and guys were knocking down shots.”
Embellishing? How about understating.
Iowa State used the second-best shooting night in the Hoiberg Era to dispatch a quality No. 18 Arkansas team by double-figures, 95-77, at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday night. The Cyclones vaulted to a 20-point halftime lead and withstood a mini second-half run in closing out the third-largest win against a ranked opponent in program history.
All week Hoiberg talked about starting fast. Consider the message received.
By the first media timeout the Cyclones had scored 14 points, and a defensive effort later in the first half — in which the team held Arkansas scoreless for 5:20 — helped Iowa State score 13-straight in a 52-point first half.
“The important thing for us was to attack. We didn’t want to play on our heels,” Hoiberg said. “When we were able to do that in the first half we got that lead up to 20 at halftime and that was big.”
Together, Niang and senior Bryce Dejean-Jones combined for 53 points on 17-of-20 shooting. Dejean-Jones never missed — he hit a 3-pointer three feet behind the line once and sunk a heat-check turnaround jumper later — finishing 8-of-8 from the field while ending with a season-high 27 points.
Iowa State as a whole shot 64 percent, second to only the 65.3 percent the Cyclones shot against Western Carolina (2011) since Hoiberg arrived at Iowa State.
“The big thing we worked on is getting out with pace and whatever defense they were in we were going to attack tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you do that and start hitting shots, guys start feeling good about each other.”
What carried Iowa State in a game previewed as a ‘track meet’ between two of the fastest-paced teams in college basketball was defense. The Cyclones held an Arkansas team that has averaged 90 points per game 13 points under that mark.
“I think we did a good job of getting them out of their rhythm,” Niang said. “We didn’t let them get out in transition except for those six or seven minutes in the second half. I think we slowed them up [and] that’s when we really controlled the tempo of the game.”
The win pushed Iowa State to 3-0 all-time in top-25 non-conference matchups played at Hilton Coliseum. It also returned confidence to an Iowa State team that had been searching since a loss to Maryland last week.
“When they’re letting us play our game I feel like we can play that game with anybody,” Niang said. “I feel like we’re the best in the country when we play our game.”