Editor's Note: First things first. I was at the game last night and went out to celebrate the win afterwards and stayed out until bar close. Normally, I try and get a recap up immediately following each game, but given those circumstances, that's the reason for the delay. I suck, I know.
By now, the narratives have developed and surfaced. Depending upon what color shirt you're wearing, the way last night's game played out differs greatly and the question about who in fact is the better team remains as unclear as it was prior to tip off. What can't be disputed though, is the outcome and for Cyclone fans everywhere, the 85-82 final score showed yet again that this Iowa State team simply can't be counted out.
Despite trailing the Hawkeyes for the majority of last night's game, Iowa State found a way to stay within striking distance and did just enough down the stretch to come out on top. The Cyclones' effort was bolstered by just a little help from the raucous Hilton crowd and a special dose of Hilton Magic. I mean, how else can you epxlain Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble missing the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds left and then Mike Gesell bricking two from the stripe with 12 seconds remaining? Gesell's misses immediately made Cyclone fans remember Brian Boddicker's misses when Iowa State upset #11 Texas in 2004 under similar circumstances. Having been in the building for both of these instances, I have to say that last night, Hilton was louder.
A Tip of the Hat to Iowa
I said in Friday's preview that Iowa was a very talented team and last night showed just that. I would even go so far as to say that Iowa is unquestionably the best team ISU has played to date. Closing issues aside, Iowa is going to be in the thick of the Big Ten title race and will be dancing come March and could be poised for a tournament run.
Fran McCaffery did an exceptional job preparing his team for a hostile environment and for 95% of that game, he made the right calls and the right moves and nearly stole a huge road win. I thought he called a superb game on both ends of the floor and any time Iowa State gained some momentum, he dialed up the right play or defensive set to keep Iowa in front.
Individually, Aaron White and Marble led Iowa with White going for 25 points and 17 rebounds while Marble scored 19 and dished out 6 assists. I really can't say enough good things about how these two played and especially Iowa's effort in general. You may not like Iowa, but have to respect the team they have on their hands this year.
Resilient Yet Again
How long can Iowa State keeping living this way? For the fourth time this season, Iowa State spent the majority of the game, playing from behind, yet still found a way to win. This team continues to show just how tough they are and that they can't ever be counted out.
Multiple times, I sat there and internally accepted defeat throughout last night's game. "Well, that's it. No way we come back from this," I said to myself late in the second half. The Mayor and company proved yet again what a fool I am.
Iowa State did not play their best game last night, but as is usually the case, a lot of credit has to be given to Iowa for that. The Cyclones were atrocious from the free throw line and couldn't come up with a defensive stop to save their collective lives. ISU was also killed on the boards, giving up 14 offensive rebounds and sitting at -14 on the overall rebound ledger on the final stat sheet. But at the end of the day, the numbers that matter are 85-82 and 8-0.
Sophomore Slump? No
Georges Niang has heard your criticisms and laughed at the notion of a "sophomore slump". After tallying a career high against UNI, Niang went out and bested that number by scoring 24 points (a new career high) and showed from the opening tip that he was going to control this game. Niang seemed like the only guy who could get anything going in the first half and scored arguably the biggest basket of the game with a reverse lay up with 18 seconds remaining. For good measure, Niang also dished out five assists and stayed out of foul trouble, which you may remember, was one of, if not the biggest key for Iowa State going into the game.
Other notable individual performances included:
- Melvin Ejim did not have a good night defensively, but on the offensive end of the floor, he added another 20-point effort to his resume. I think we all knew Ejim was going to have a monster senior season, but with three 20-point games already and a team leading 18.7 points per game, he is surpassing the already high expectations.
- Dustin Hogue is playing out of his damn mind right now. Hogue tallied his third straight double-double and third straight game with at least 14 rebounds, grabbing 16 total while also scoring 12 points, including two clutch free throws to put Iowa State up three and ultimately set the winning margin. Hogue leads the Big 12 and is among the best nationally in rebounding at 11.1 per game.
- Having not seen the stats until this morning, I would have thought DeAndre Kane would have had at least five turnovers. Nope. Kane had only one turnover and handed out nine assists. He wasn't the scoring threat that we expected him to be, chipping in only five points on 1-6 shooting, but it's tough to turn your nose up at a 9 assist, 1 turnover game.
- 3sus of Nazareth lives up to his name. Long went 3-5 from three and scored 13 big points off the bench. It wasn't all good for young 3sus though, going 0-4 from the line and fouling out.
- It seems like I always say this, but Monte Morris didn't necessarily have a huge game statistically, but he was steady and played well. When Kane picked up his second foul in the first half and went to the bench, Morris stepped in and kept Iowa State in the game. Morris played 27 big minutes and I really like his trajectory of play and production through eight games.
- To our Hawkeye friends, you may call it "Hilton Bullshit" and that's fine, but after last night, I think you at least have to concede that there's something magical about Hilton Coliseum.
- Fred Hoiberg noted in the post game presser that he wanted his team to foul on Iowa's last possession. They didn't. Zach McCabe got loose and on the most wide open shot of the night for either team, McCabe, who's a 43% 3-point shooter, missed. Given all of the late 3's Iowa State has allowed over the last year, McCabe's miss was the most un-Iowa State thing ever.
- I'm an Iowa State fan first and foremost and a basketball fan second. That being said, keep your head up Mike Gesell. You're a good ball player and next time you're in that situation, I'm sure you'll knock those free throws down. Seriously, somebody should probably check on that kid.
- Well, the students rushed the floor, you know, despite the fact that Iowa State was favored and the higher rated team. I would have preferred they didn't, but I'm not going to get too bent out of shape about it. They're college kids. They don't know any better and many of them waited for more than 24 hours to get into the arena in the first place. Let 'em have some fun I guess.