Iowa State started 2015 with a nice vacation to the place where their NCAA tournament ended last year, albeit in a much newer arena, to take on the defensively oriented South Carolina Gamecocks. The game turned out much differently than the team's last game on 2014, an 83-33 rout of a hapless Mississippi Valley State team, as the Gamecocks muscled their way to a win at the Barclays Center.
Old friend Frank Martin's team held the high flying Cyclones in check in the first half, ending the first 20 minutes 0-10 on three pointers while leading scorers Georges Niang and Bryce Dejean-Jones went a combined 2-10 from the field for 3 points. If it weren't for the continued emergence of Jameel McKay and his 11 first half points, the game might have been become out of hand early for Iowa State. One glimpse of McKay fulfilling his significant preseason hype came on a play in which he stole an entry pass, threw an outlet, ran the floor, then one touched the return pass to Dustin Hogue for an easy bucket.
Iowa State was unable to capitalize on the momentum they generated in the first half, starting the second on a slight drought and seemingly trying not to score at times. Georges Niang showed signs of coming alive around the 10 minute mark of the second half, but due to foul trouble and poor shooting, was a shell of himself on the night, as was Bryce Dejean-Jones. Even the reliable duo of Monte Morris and Naz Long were off on the night, with Morris only contributing two assists and Long struggling from the field while turning it over three times.
Iowa State did have the game within three in the final minute on Naz Long's three, the only one for the Cyclones on the night, who finished an unbelievable 1-18 from deep. Long's shot did extend Iowa State's ridiculous "at least one made 3" stat, but it's a hollow stat on a night when once again, a good team showed that they were able to counter Iowa State's flashy play with physical defense on a neutral court. Whether this will be a concern by the time the NCAA tournament rolls around remains to be seen, but it's the beginning of a troubling trend.