SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Standing behind the closed locker room door at the Sanford Pentagon which signified the dawn of a new era in Iowa State basketball, reading new coach Steve Prohm’s prophetic words “WIN THE DAY,” Georges Niang dug back to the past to encapsulate his team’s latest win.
“A wise man always told me, ‘Don’t ever feel sorry for winning,’” said Niang, who scored a game-high 17 points Friday. “That wise man happens to be coaching the Bulls, so I’m going to take that one on this one.”
Fred Hoiberg is five months removed from Ames and yet his words still carry weight. A win is a win, and the Cyclones will take it.
Iowa State (1-0) used a second-half outburst from senior Abdel Nader and stingy defense late to close out a 68-62 victory against Colorado (0-1) Friday, giving Prohm his first victory at the helm of the Cyclones, who faced a Power 5 program to open the season for the first time since 1987-88.
“We’re still learning,” Niang continued on after providing his wisdom. “Not too many teams play a Power 5 team their first game of the year. I’m definitely happy with how we responded. I think years before we would have been a little distraught after getting three 3s in a row getting put on us or losing a lead. We really just stayed the course and fought through adversity and found a way to win it.”
Iowa State and Colorado both started sluggishly — combining to go 23-of-66 shooting in the first half — but the Cyclones took a five-point lead to the break behind an 8-0 run to end the first half. That late-half spark carried into the second as Iowa State eventually made it an 18-2 run over 6 minutes, 38 seconds of game play to take a 13-point lead.
The spark was helped by the under-the-radar Nader, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including six during the run.
“I just had to erase that first half. Had a bad one,” said Nader, who added six rebounds, two blocks and two steals to his point total. “It was the first game of the season, I had to knock some rust off."
That was Iowa State’s motto as a whole.
The Cyclones attempted just 10 3-pointers in the win (going 2-of-10), a total that would have been a season-low in each of Hoiberg’s five seasons.
“That will probably be the lowest,” Prohm said of the total. “They really just stayed at home and that’s why we’ve got to be a little more patient, get a little bit more ball reversal. When we drove it from the top, you saw, second half, we started getting layups.”
When Colorado hit three consecutive 3s in less than 90 seconds to cut Iowa State’s lead to five nearly midway through the second half, the Cyclones didn’t flinch, eventually extending the lead to 10. The Buffaloes hung close late, but Iowa State held them off.
Down the stretch, Nader scored six of Iowa State’s final eight points and Iowa State’s defense finished the job to give the Cyclones their first win of the season.
“I’m excited to get the win. It’s early in the year. It’s about the process,” Prohm said. “First game of the year, so it isn’t always going to be pretty.”