DES MOINES — There was no grand explanation needed when all was said and done Saturday: Georges Niang slipped and tumbled.
In the end so, too, did Iowa State.
“I lost my footing,” Niang said. “I tripped and fell.”
That was true of both Niang’s late-game possession and ultimately Iowa State’s overall night at Wells Fargo Arena, where the No. 5 Cyclones hope they only slipped, and didn’t fall, in an 81-79 loss to Northern Iowa.
“We’ve all got to get better, that’s just part of the process. We’re 10 games in, we’re 9-1, got beat by a good basketball team,” coach Steve Prohm said. “We’ll get better. It’s a process and we can’t be in peaks and valleys over one game.”
Iowa State did get better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
Northern Iowa led by as many as 11 points in the game’s first half, building its lead by dominating the perimeter with help from ball screens. The Panthers hit 13 3s in the victory, including eight in the game’s first half.
The Cyclones, who on the other end went 3-of-17 from 3, erased an 8-point deficit midway through the second half with an 8-0 run in 58 seconds. When Northern Iowa built its lead back up twice from there, Iowa State answered.
The final answer came when Niang, who finished with 30 points, hit two free throws to draw within one with 20 seconds remaining. The Cyclones proceeded to force a turnover with their press and set up an isolation for Niang.
“It was a good play,” Niang said.
Though when Niang went to back down his defender, as he had done so often throughout the night, he tripped, tumbled and watched the ball roll away.
“I would have done the same thing, try to get him isolated in the middle of the floor to drive the basket,” Prohm said. “He had been effective there the whole game, it’s just an unfortunate situation there.”
“I felt really good even with the ball in Georges’ hands,” said Deonte Burton, who scored seven points in his debut. “I believed we could win and it just wasn’t our day today.”
Northern Iowa’s Wes Washpun, who scored 28, missed one of his two free throws to give Iowa State one final shot with 6.4 seconds to play and Monte Morris, who was the hero nine days ago against Iowa, drove the court.
This time, Morris’ floater floated too far, sailing over the rim as the buzzer sounded to hand Iowa State its first loss this season.
“He had a 3-footer, a 4-footer and he just missed it,” Prohm said. “[Nine] days ago he made it, so you have to live with that. You’ve got to be there in the good and the bad, so he’ll make the next one."
Iowa State, meanwhile, hopes it can rebound against No. 23 Cincinnati in its first true road test of the 2015-16 season.
For now, the Cyclones have only slipped.
“It’s always about the next game,” Prohm said. “Everybody is down. I’m down. I want to win. I want to win every game. None of us have lost a lot of games, but I understand I can’t go nuts. We'll go to work and be ready to go against Cincinnati."