It wasn't the blowout we all wanted, but it was a comfortable enough, controlling victory for Iowa State in its opener on Friday night. The Cyclones asserted their will for the better part of the second half, leading by as much as 19 points, coming away with a 93-82 win over Oakland.
All five Cyclone starters scored in double figures, led by Georges Niang's career-high, 30 points. Iowa State held a major advantage at the foul line, knocking down 26 of 37 attempts to only 15 makes (in 20 attempts) for Oakland. That 11-point margin proved to be the difference in the final score in this high-scoring battle.
Iowa State used primarily a 7-man rotation with Daniel Edozie and Sherron Dorsey-Walker each playing 18 minutes off the bench. Freshmen Clayton Custer and Georgious Tsalmpouris also played, but mostly in garbage time. Walk-on Kourtlin Jackson also made an appearance.
As a team, Iowa State shot 51.7% from the floor and was 7-16 (43.8%) from outside. The Cyclones were +5 on the glass and also turned it over five fewer times than the Golden Grizzlies. Fred Hoiberg is now a perfect 5-0 in openers as the head coach in Ames.
- As much as I'd love to start with Niang, I feel it would do a great injustice to single out Niang's performance given the total team effort on the offensive end of the floor. As mentioned. all five Cyclone starters scored in double figures and each of Monte Morris, Naz Long, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Dustin Hogue and Niang took turns sharing the load and each looked more than capable of being able to carry Iowa State offensively in spurts. As a team, the Cyclones dished out 18 assists to only 8 turnovers. Once this outfit is at full strength, it's going to be damn near impossible to hold this team in check.
- And now to the individual performances. Starting with Niang, check out this stat line; 30 points on 9-17 shooting, 2-3 from outside, 10-11 from the line, 9 rebounds, 5 assists all in 33 minutes. The 30 points will definitely draw the headlines, but The Mayor has to be ecstatic at the effort on the glass from Niang. Scoring has never been an issue for the multi-faceted junior, but it would appear that his trimmed down physique could be paying off in other areas of his game. Oh, and the 30 points is cool too I guess.
- Moving along, it was a nice debut for Dejean-Jones. Now, without even reading the game thread or Twitter, I can just about guarantee that there were grumblings about BDJ's shot selection. That's fair. Were there times when he should have pulled out and dished the ball off to a teammate? Absolutely. But you know what; why neuter a player of BDJ's ability so early in the season? Hoiberg and staff have seen him play on film and in practice, but we're all learning about what type of player he is and despite what you may have seen, the early returns are promising. BDJ is not DeAndre Kane. He is not Will Clyburn, nor is he Chris Allen. BDJ is...well...a completely different player than I can ever remember Iowa State having. It's easy to look at his stat line of 20 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists and be excited, but let's think about the context of how he put up those numbers and the relative ease with which he did so. He's a next-level athlete with what appears to be ruthlessly competitive instincts and a knack for being around the ball at all times. Perhaps the best compliment that I can pay him is that he involves himself in all aspects of the game. Could that become a detriment at times? Sure, but I loved what I saw on Friday night. This guy is something else. Defining what exactly that means will be possession-by-possession autobiography, but I'm excited to see more.
- As for the rest of the starters, Morris, Hogue and Long all played well. Morris knocked down 2-3 from deep and if his outside shot can become a weapon, he'll have little to no trouble getting into the paint at will. He finished with 14 points and 3 assists, but did have 2 uncharacteristic turnovers, though I wouldn't worry too much about that. Hogue was his typical, aggressive self, attacking the basket with relentless fury while racking up 15 points. Had he not shot 4-9 from the line, Hogue may have had a chance to join Niang and BDJ in the 20+ club. As for Long, he shook off a cold start and ended up hitting a couple treys in transition and even attacked the basket while chipping in 10 points.
- Iowa State's defensive effort is probably going to be a talking point and justifiably so. Giving up 82 points and allowing your opponent to shoot 51.8% from the floor and 37.5% from outside is certainly not one of those things that you want to hang your hat on. It doesn't matter all that much, but I did hear Eric Heft mention on the post game show that Oakland hit 8 of their final 9 shots with most of those coming once The Mayor had emptied the bench. Still, it wasn't a banner effort on that end of the floor and with a high-powered Georgia State outfit coming into Hilton Coliseum on Monday, the staff will have their work cut out for them. That being said, I expect Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay to be two of the better defensive players for Iowa State this year and neither one of them were in uniform on Friday night. Another thing to consider was the pace of this game. While the officials bogged everything down to the best of their ability, these two teams found a way to get up and down the floor and create shot opportunities. Iowa State is not going to wear out the shot clock, so the defensive numbers will always look a little shaky to the untrained eye.
The best number by far, however, is 1-0. Iowa State will host a very good Georgia State team on Monday night in Hilton Coliseum at 8 PM on ESPNU, so getting to 2-0 will be a challenge. We'll talk more about that game soon, but rest easy Cyclone fans. The first one is out of the way we couldn't be happier that basketball has returned.