AMES, IOWA — Human nature suggested there was bound to be some sort of letdown playing less than 48 hours after a rivalry game, and Sunday’s sluggish start confirmed any such beliefs.
The Iowa State team that emerged in the early minutes Sunday was not the same as the one that stormed past Iowa on Friday. This version of Iowa State struggled with pace and quickly fell behind a scorching Southern team before a spurt of both scoring and defense helped it to an 88-78 win.
“I felt like we were stuck in the mud the whole game except for a little spurt in the second half,” Georges Niang said. “Whenever you start off a game that poorly, you don’t realize how tough it is until you put yourself in that position.”
The game, in reality, started with Iowa State trailing. The Cyclones were assessed a technical foul for dunking during pregame warmups, giving Southern a two-point lead before tipoff, which it only built in the early moments.
The Jaguars led by as many as eight points before the Cyclones found any sort of groove. Iowa State, which didn’t take its first lead until the 3:15 mark of the first half, eventually used a 21-6 run to take a seven-point lead to the break.
“Our pace was brutal early on,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We weren’t getting it out quick, we weren’t running the lane, it’s just all those little things that you do that makes you a good offensive team.”
“[We were] probably thinking our crap doesn’t stink,” Niang said. “We probably were out there think we’re better than we were. They punched us in the mouth.”
The late first-half surge carried to the second, where Iowa State started on a 20-2 run, building its lead as high as 27 points.
From the moment Iowa State trailed by eight for the final time in the first half, it went on a 45-10 run over a 17-minute period to build its largest lead. The Iowa State defense held Southern scoreless for a stretch of 6 minutes, 5 seconds between the end of the first half and start of the second in taking control.
Iowa State had five players score in double-figures led by Niang and Bryce Dejean-Jones, who each scored 18 points in the win.
“I don’t know how we scored 88,” Hoiberg said. “We’re pretty good when we play that way. I guess I’ll leave it at that.”
In the end, the slow start wasn’t enough to crush Iowa State.
“It took us awhile to wake up,” Niang said. “But eventually we got there.”