For all the hype and tempered expectations entering Monday night's bout with Georgia State, the Cyclones proved shutting down the mid-major darling to be a pretty menial task.
As is the story with this team on occasion, it was slow going for a small chunk of the first half before they finally shook the Panthers and the floodgates opened. We were warned to watch our backs with this Georgia State team (not that anyone in their right mind ever puts Iowa State on upset alert inside Hilton Coliseum), but they were dispatched with relative ease.
And here are four things we can take away...
1. You don't play street ball with Fred Hoiberg.
For a team as efficient as they were on offense a year ago, boasting arguably the top mid-major backcourt in the country in 2014-15, I was genuinely shocked at how poor Georgia State's shot selection was. Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter combined to shoot 14-for-42 from the field and together missed a total of 12 three-pointers, a good lot of them very ill-advised.
The lesson here is that, if teams are going to start chucking against the Cyclones, they better make most of it. Because frankly, you're going to get outworked on the glass and you're certainly not going to slow down the transition game.
I'll say this about the Panthers though: this is a supremely athletic group of guys led by Hunter, no doubt an NBA wingman-in-waiting. It's scary to think about how good they might be with a little more shot discipline, yet it's something they may not need in a dreadful Sun Belt Conference this season. We'll be seeing them again in March.
2. Dustin Hogue might turn out to be a stickier glue guy than Melvin Ejim.
I mentioned in an article before the season tipped off that this year for Hogue was going to be about picking up where he left off in Madison Square Garden: 34 points and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. And I'm more inclined to think that is what's happening after watching him Monday night (though perhaps not at quite an earth-shattering level as the MSG Game.
Georges Niang was a fart in the breeze for much of the game, and with Daniel Edozie getting surprisingly limited run, Hogue was thrust into that "it's on me" role he clearly relishes. It seemed like he was always in the right spot, whether it be dishing the ball, crashing the boards or setting up shop underneath the hoop for easy buckets. And at 6-6 and playing the five (whatever that really means), Hogue proved, pound-for-pound, to be as impressive and reliable as they come.
3. We shouldn't worry about this defense.
I think the Oakland game will turn out to be an anomaly over the course of the season. Call it first game mistakes, call it Oakland just doing a good job of matching Iowa State's pace, but the Cyclones' defensive effort against Georgia State was a far more telling sign of what that unit can accomplish on a regular basis.
Last year's GSU squad was fairly strong offensively, and all they did this offseason was replace Devonta White with Kevin Ware. At the very least, we all probably assumed they could match Oakland's 82-point output from Friday night, but that never came to be. The wire-to-wire poor shot selection certainly didn't help them, but ISU did a bang-up job locking down the perimeter (Hunter was going to get his regardless), limiting transition buckets and holding the bigs in check — an aspect of this defense that will only improve with the arrival Jameel McKay.
An interesting note: the Panthers' four-man frontcourt rotation was responsible for a paltry 18 points in 81 minutes.
4. Bryce Dejean-Jones, like DeAndre Kane, is good at everything.
Ho-hum. Another TROUBLED TRANSFER, another combo guard, another guy who looks like he's going to put this team on his back. Dejean-Jones posted a line Monday night that guys like Fred Hoiberg and NBA scouts everywhere drool over:
15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and just 2 fouls in 38 minutes (all but the final two). He hit every column in the basic box score, all while being tasked with guarding either Harrow or Hunter for the duration of the game. When pundits start to pop in Iowa State game film as the season progresses, the Kane comparisons are going to become mind-numbing. And I get it.
Because in the long months between Ejim's and Kane's departures and the start of this season, there was certainly no shortage of concerns over how Hoiberg was going to replace two all-conference studs and stay competitive in a loaded Big 12.
We're just two games in, but it wouldn't be crazy to at least crane our necks toward Mr. Hogue and Mr. Dejean-Jones.
What I think we'll learn against Alabama:
What it means to be a little annoyed offensively.
Anthony Grant's teams, in his five years with the Crimson Tide and at VCU before that, have made a living suffocating opposing offenses on the perimeter and blocking their fair share of interior shots. Given that Fred Hoiberg's entire playbook funnels shots exclusively to those two areas on the court, I wouldn't expect scoring to come as easy as it has in the first two contests.
Apropos of nothing but a quick player note: Ricky Tarrant, a transfer guard from Tulane, is going to be a spectacular matchup for Bryce Dejean-Jones.
Monday, 8:30, ESPN2. Hilton South. See you there.