The Iowa State Cyclones started the 2015-16 season off with a victory over a power 5 opponent on Friday night, beating the Colorado Buffaloes 68-62 in Steve Prohm's debut as ISU's head coach.
Both teams started off struggling from the field as it was clear the excitement of kicking off the season was affecting their play early on. The score was 5-2 Colorado at the first media timeout and Iowa State was having difficulty making shots and keeping the Buffs off the offensive glass.
Luckily, Nazareth Mitrou-Long provided a bit of a spark for the Cyclones, as he pump-faked a Buffalo defender into the air and drove all the way to the hoop for a nice bucket that got the crowd into it. Shortly after, Mitrou-Long pulled the trigger on (and made) a 3-pointer from the right wing that was well beyond the NBA line in the Sanford Pentagon.
Georges Niang and Jameel McKay both picked up two early fouls - Niang's with 13 minutes left in the 1st half and McKay's with about 10 minutes left - which forced ISU head coach Steve Prohm to break out some 2-3 zone. Unfortunately, that led to a few Colorado 3-pointers and the Cyclones didn't take long to go back to man-to-man.
Iowa State closed out the half on an 8-0 run, thanks to a few nifty plays by Monte Morris. The star junior point guard flashed lightning quick moves and an improved ability to get to the basket en route to 12 first half points. The score going into the locker room was 30-25 in favor of ISU.
The Cyclones surprised many people by only shooting a total of three 3-pointers in the first half. Meanwhile, Colorado scored 15 of their 25 first half points from beyond the arc, going 5/15 from long range.
Following the break, Iowa State put together a string of buckets to extend the lead to 38-27 and forced the Buffaloes' head coach, Tad Boyle, to call a timeout with 16:57 left in the game. Unfortunately, Colorado punched right back and cut the lead to 43-38 at the under-12 media timeout.
Abdel Nader stopped an 11-0 run from Colorado on a drive to the lane after the timeout, and Matt Thomas scored his first bucket of the game when he tracked down an offensive rebound and drove along the baseline for an easy lay-in. On the next possession, Thomas used a stutter step move to get past a Buffalo defender to once again get to the hoop for a layup.
Colorado continued to hang around and kept the deficit to just a couple possessions. With 7:29 left in the game, the score stood at 49-45 Iowa State.
A nice sky hook on the right block from Niang extended the lead to six points out of the media timeout, then a Naz Long steal and assist to McKay for a one-handed dunk gave ISU a 53-45 lead, leading to another 30 second timeout from Tad Boyle.
McKay picked up his fourth foul when Colorado big man Josh Scott backed him down in the post with 5:31 left. Prohm elected to leave him in the game, despite Iowa State's short bench. The foul situation became even scarier for ISU when Abdel Nader picked up a fourth foul of his own with 4:07 remaining. At the final media timeout, the Cyclones held a 58-52 advantage.
Niang knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead back to eight points. Scott answered in the lane a couple possessions later for the Buffaloes, then George King drove the baseline and caused Niang to pick up his fourth foul on a play where Niang's heels were on the newly-extended restricted arc. King made one of two free throws to make it a 60-55 game.
Both the Cyclones and Buffaloes hit a basket, but then Niang found McKay on a big-to-big alley-oop with just over a minute left in the game. Colorado scored with 51 seconds left to pull the ISU lead back to five points and immediately called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Buffaloes tried to enforce a 1-2-1-1 press, but Iowa State threw a deep pass and got an easy lay-in. However, just a few seconds later, Colorado nailed another 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 66-62.
Monte Morris was quickly fouled after the next ISU inbounds pass, and uncharacteristically missed both shots from the charity stripe. Luckily for the Cyclones, Colorado came up empty on the ensuing possession and Nader hit two free throws to seal the game and give Steve Prohm a 68-62 victory in his first game as Iowa State's head coach.
Niang led the way for the Cyclones, scoring 17 points and adding 4 rebounds and 2 assists. It was a balanced scoring effort across the board though, as four of Iowa State's starters scored in double digits.
The weirdest stat of the night was the fact that ISU only made 2/10 3-pointers. That's not too encouraging, though the silver lining to it is the Cyclones found a way to win anyway. On the other side of the ball, the Buffaloes finished the night 9/23 from beyond the arc.
The next game for ISU will be against Chicago State in Hilton Coliseum on Monday. That game will tip at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on Cyclones.TV.
For the full box score of today's game, go to this link.