IOWA CITY, Iowa - After an emotionally-charged victory last year, Georges Niang fired off a verbal shot. Iowa State's star forward said that everybody knew it was a "Cyclone State" after his team knocked off rival Iowa.
This week reporters asked Niang about the comment with the Hawkeyes next up on the schedule this Friday (7 p.m. CT, BTN). He met the inquiry head on.
"I’m expecting the worst (from Iowa fans), but I love it. I did it to myself, so I can handle all that I dish out," Niang told AllCyclones.com.
The teams face off in Carver-Hawkeye Arena a year after the Cyclones overcame a determined Iowa team to win, 85-82, in Ames. ISU scored the game's final eight points to fight off the Hawkeyes' upset bid.
"I'm not getting in Georges' stuff, man. I'm not hyping into that stuff," White said Tuesday when asked about Niang's "Cyclone State" comment. "You have to be motivated when you walk in the building. I'm going to be motivated (Wednesday) when we introduce (the scouting report). It doesn't take much to fire me up.
"That, for the fans, riles them up. That's probably why he did it. For us, we know, we've got to take care of business."
Iowa's nickname is "The Hawkeye State." When ISU beats their rivals, the term "Cyclone State" often is brought up.
"I didn't actually know he said that," Iowa Senior Gabe Olaseni said of Niang's comment. "But he's going to stick up for his team. That's what you'd expect him to do. They're a good team. Hopefully we can win on Friday."
The 14th-ranked Cyclones (6-1) come to Iowa City with the status of second-leading scorer Bryce Dejean-Jones (17.1 PPG) up in the air. He remained in jail Thursday morning after an arrest the night before.
Niang has paced Iowa State in scoring this season at 18.0 PPG. Against the Hawkeyes last season, he netted 24, dished out five assists and registered two steals.
While the Cyclones converted late in the last meeting, Iowa crumbled. The Hawkeyes held a 82-77 lead with 1:26 left remaining before the home team finished on a 8-0 run.
During the crucial stretch, Mike Gesell missed the front end of two one-and-one opportunities. Roy Devyn Marble came up empty on his try. Adam Woodbury fouled Niang way out on the court and the ISU star sank both attempts.
"I think in a lot of people's minds, including mine, we should have won that game," Uthoff said. "There was no reason we should have lost. We're looking forward to a little redemption."
For Gesell, it was a bitter memory. It's one he's tried to put behind him.
"It stuck with me but I'm passed it now," he said. "I use it as a learning experience. I feel like every game like that is another step to improve on and I think I'm a better player because of it."
The Hawkeyes have won their last six games after back-to-back losses against Texas and Syracuse in New York City. They upset then-No. 12 North Carolina last week in Chapel Hill and the Cyclones present another opportunity for a NCAA Tournament, resume-building victory.
"They're playing well coming off a Sweet 16 run and it would be a good win to put on our resume," White said. "You don't really think about that now but obviously you'll think about it when you look back on the season. I'm glad my last year we've got it at home. I'm just looking forward to it."
The Cyclones lone setback came at the hands of Maryland, 72-63, Nov. 25 in Kansas City. They've since won three in a row, including an impressive 95-77 victory against then-No. 18 Arkansas last week in Ames.
"They have a real good team," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "The thing that jumps out at you is that they have so many weapons. Obviously, it starts with Niang playing probably the best of his career, which is saying a lot. He's scoring the ball. He's making plays off the dribble for his teammates but they have got a lot of three-point shooters and they have got athletes. They can hurt you in a variety of different ways. So we've got to be ready for them."
The Hawkeyes improved defense will be challenged by ISU, which shoots 49.4 percent from the floor. Iowa is holding opponents to 33.7 percent field goal shooting.
Monte Morris will be a key defensive assignment for the Hawkeyes with Anthony Clemmons a likely choice to match up with the talented ISU point guard. Morris ranks third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.8) and 23rd in assists per game (5.9). He scores 10.3 points a contest.
"We're looking forward to it," Olaseni said of the game. "Just walking around campus, a lot of the students tell us it's a big game. Obviously, we know it is. It's a ranked team at home. It's an in-state rivalry. I think they've got the edge on us 2-1 since I've been here so we definitely have to make it 2-2."
While there's plenty of motivation for the Hawkeyes, ISU is looking to start a winning streak in the series.
"A lot of us have been waiting a long time for Friday," Niang told AllCyclones.com.
The mantle of Hawkeye or Cyclone State is on the line, at least for the next year, anyway.