Iowa State rode a red-hot Matt Thomas and held off numerous Kansas State runs in the second half to defeat the #22 ranked Wildcats by six. The Cyclones made eight threes in the first half, including 4 for 4 from Matt Thomas to spurt out to a 12 point halftime lead. Kansas State battled back and tied the game at 50 in the second half, but Iowa State weathered streaky shooting and mental mistakes late in the game to grind out their 15th victory of the year.
This game, perhaps more than any other game the Cyclones have played this year, exhibited the truly bi-polar nature of this team. Alternatingly frustrating and painfully awesome, over the course of the game we saw Matt Thomas finally show his true potential, Melvin Ejim get completely mind-fucked for 25 minutes (scored 2 in the first half and somehow still scored 20), Niang's 3 become a weapon rather than a liability, and Ejim drawing a technical foul by making dead ball contact with his face.
The biggest positive from tonight is the long-awaited emergence of Matt Thomas as a deep threat. Thomas has played at times this year like the freshman he is, so to see him hit several huge 3's late in the first half and push the Cyclone lead to double digits was a very welcome development. He finished the night 4 for 6 from behind the arc, and would have been 5 for 7 if not for a puzzling off-ball foul call in the first half.
Niang also had a good night from behind the arc, and his return to "Old Man" form after troubles against Texas and KU was the primary reason ISU was able to stay in the game late. But mental mistakes nearly gave away the game - after giving up the halftime lead, Iowa State had begun to build another double digit cushion - until Will Spradling drained a three and a miscommunication on the ensuing inbounds pass gave the ball immediately back to the Wildcats, who drained another Spradling 3. A missed, hurried 3 attempt and a lazy defensive transition later, and suddenly the Cyclones had given up an 8-0 run in the span of 30 seconds. That's going to be impossible to recover from in most cases, and suggests that the demons of the last three games may not be fully exorcised yet.
Still, enjoy the moment. While careening downhill in a Wheelchair with no chance of survival, we managed to pull the handbrake and slow our crash and burn into the rocks below. Wednesday's game against Kansas may push us back down that hill again, for now we have another win over a Top 25 team and we've stopped the bleeding.