"We didn't really play well today. We lacked energy. But a win is a win."
"We didn't come out with any effort. No attention to detail."
Jameel McKay and Matt Thomas both said it best, as a sluggish first half and disinterested times in the second half kept a bad Arkansas-Pine Bluff team in the game today. But a win's a win, and the Cyclones were able to pull out a 78-64 victory.
Iowa State got out to a quick 7-0 lead, the first three points coming from a hot Matt Thomas shot behind the arc. A defensive issue ISU was having, however, was Abdel Nader coming in late in his attempt to steal three different passes. All three times Nader missed the steal led to three open 3-pointers from the corner for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the last of which actually hit. After Jameel McKay was fouled to head to the line, Iowa State held a 7-3 lead.
McKay was able to knock down both free throws (shotgun your beer) and a Thomas three, Nader three, and Hallice Cooke three kept the offense hot. Unfortunately, the Cyclones made seemingly simple plays more difficult than they needed to be, leading to six turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. Along with the turnovers, the seemingly more aggressive than usual defense from ISU started to give the Golden Lions open shots a plenty, and Iowa State held just an 18-13 lead over UAPB.
The game continued to be sloppy for both teams as we reached the middle portion of the first half, and heading into the under-8 timeout, Iowa State held just a 21-16 lead.
The team tried making it more of a focus of getting the ball to the post the rest of the half, but the Golden Lions clearly had a game plan of keeping the Cyclones out of the paint by pressuring McKay. A couple more threes and McKay making both free throws (shotgun again) and the Cyclones held a 31-23 lead.
The offense continued to stay hot the rest of the half, putting up a total of 39 points, going 8-16 from three and 11-12 at the line. Nader forced four steals, but the above-average aggressive defense led to easy finishes for UAPB, and at the half, it was 39-30 in favor of the Cyclones. With Naz Mitrou-Long out of the game, Iowa State played just six men the entire half.
Getting to the paint was the main emphasis at halftime, as the first six points for the Cyclones out of the half came on dunks from McKay and Georges Niang, which fired up the offense and Iowa State had a 52-38 lead heading into the first media timeout.
Unfortunately, while the offense was doing everything it could to keep the Golden Lions out of the game, the defense was allowing them to stay in it, and halfway through the second half Iowa State held just a 63-52 lead.
John Walters said it best when he said it was just too easy for UAPB to dribble by us, but that statement must have been heard by the Cyclones, who turned up the defense and didn't allow a field goal from 9:59 to the 3:31 minute mark.
The defense was still aggressive and gave up some great looks for the Golden Lions, a point that Steve Prohm will need to make if Iowa State wants to continue an undefeated non-con season, but it also provided some needed sparks at times when it worked. (Controlled aggressive defense is good. Uncontrolled is bad. Iowa State was pretty uncontrolled tonight.)
Despite more silly turnovers, the offensive showcase didn't slow down, and made the game look easy the rest of the way. Great fast breaks led to easy points, and after a couple high flying alley oops to McKay down the stretch, the Cyclones pulled out a 78-64 victory.
Iowa State was led by McKay's 18 points (and 6-7 performance from the line) along with Matt Thomas' 17 points, 15 of which coming from 3-point range.
The two "bad" stats were losing 36-29 on the boards, and allowing the Golden Lions to shoot 46% from the floor tonight.
Next up, Iowa State will take on the Northern Iowa Panthers on Saturday, December 19th, in Des Moines as part of the Big Four Classic at 6:00 p.m. on ESPNU.