Iowa State returned to Hilton Coliseum as Emerald Coast Classic champions, defeating a pesky North Dakota State team by 20 in front of a packed house of Cyclone faithful—arguably none more notable than new head football coach Matt Campbell.
I was reminded tonight about how quickly I would rip off just about any of my body parts to give to an injured Iowa State basketball player. It happened two years ago when Georges Niang broke his foot in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina Central, and damned if I didn't nearly saw off my entire right leg with 6:23 to play in the first half when Niang collided with a NDSU defender and fell to the floor in pain.
Thankfully, he would return a few minutes later—first to the stationary bicycle, then back into the game—to help spark a critical 9-0 run to end a 1st half that saw Iowa State and NDSU trade jabs for the majority of it.
A freshly off-the-grid Jameel McKay (we hope) kicked things off with a thunderous lob from Niang 15 seconds into the game, followed by a quick five points and a foul drawn by Naz Long, which forced Bison center A.J. Jacobsen out of the game early with two fouls. After a few easy buckets that essentially allowed NDSU match ISU shot-for-shot, both teams went cold. McKay got outworked in the post, even failing to finish a couple lobs, and shots appeared to be at a premium for both sides.
Monte Morris, who ended the 1st half with a very Monte Morris-like 7-5-2-1 line, absolutely ate his counterpart Carin Dupree alive, forcing key turnovers and nailing a huge three to put the Cyclones up 24-15 at the under-8:00 timeout.
It was at this point that the wheels began to come off for ISU. The Bison rattled off 10 straight turnover-fueled points (and would end up nabbing seven 1st half steals) in about a minute and a half to take a 25-24 lead, during which Niang hobbled to the locker room in front of thousands of silent fans.
A pin drop would have been deafening.
But Niang would return with just under three minutes remaining to spark that 9-0 run to end the half, in which Iowa State made four buckets in as many possessions.
And after a gigantic collective exhale, he picked up where he left off.
Niang opened the 2nd half scoring for ISU with his patented hook shot and then five additional points over the next four minutes. But NDSU refused to die, moving the ball efficiently and sprinkling in a mix of three-pointers and uncontested layups to cut the lead to 52-50 into the second media timeout.
And the rest of the game belonged to Abdel Nader.
Iowa State busted out of the under-12 on a 9-2 run in which Nader sunk two free throws, executed a beautiful spin move in the lane for a layup and nailed a deep three to extend the lead to 61-52. That lead would later shrink just a bit to 63-56 before the Cyclones forced four steals in five possessions, turning each one into points to fuel an 11-0 run.
Nader would finish with a game-high 21 points, 14 coming in the 2nd half, along with five rebounds and three assists.
Steve Prohm called off the dogs with 1:24 left but left McKay in the game, who attempted to bring down his 20th rebound of the game... to no avail.
McKay said "me and him are going to talk" in reference to Brady Ernst. Joking.— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) December 2, 2015
McKay tallied 19 boards to go along with 15 points, three blocks and an assist.
Monte Morris posted another fabulously well-rounded performance with 18 points, five boards and six assists. Niang added 15 of his own, and Naz Mitrou-Long finished with 11 on just 1-of-8 from three.
Hallice Cooke contributed ISU's only bench points of the evening with four, to go along with three assists and three steals.
Paul Miller and A.J. Jacobsen were NDSU's co-leading scorers with 17. Miller also grabbed 10 rebounds in the game.
The Cyclones will face the 4-2 Buffalo Bulls next Monday night at 8:00 PM on CyclonesTV before gearing up for the Dec. 10 home showdown with Iowa.