After losing to Texas and dropping to just 1-3 in conference play, the Iowa State Cyclones basketball team knew they had to go into Manhattan, Kansas and come away with a win if they were to keep any chance of a regular season conference title alive.
Behind a balanced offensive effort and a defensive strategy that utilized more 2-3 zone than any other ISU game plan in recent memory, the Cyclones were able to take down the Wildcats by a score of 76-63 to get back in the win column. Even though K-State is likely to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 this year, the victory was a big one for Iowa State, as wins in Bramlage Coliseum aren't easy to come by, no matter the talent level of the resident Wildcats.
Abdel Nader started off the game by scoring seven of ISU's first nine points, but picked up two fouls just six minutes into the game. Coach Steve Prohm elected to bench Nader, and shortly after subbed in Jordan Ashton, who received his first minutes of conference play and performed quite well, hitting two shots (one 3-pointer) to get five points in the first half.
The opportunity for Ashton to get some time was due to a one-game suspension of Hallice Cooke, who was held out due to a violation of team rules, as reported before the game. The junior provided some good energy off the bench and didn't look out of place, making fans wonder if he is worthy of more playing time when Cooke comes back.
At one point in the first half Iowa State led 26-9, a healthy margin generated by a 2-3 zone defense that frustrated Kansas State on offense. By halftime though, the Wildcats were able to go on a run and get the score to 32-23.
Following the break, the Cyclones were able to hold K-State at arm's length for a majority of the second half, never letting them get closer than seven points from the lead until the 9:47 mark on a Justin Edwards layup that made the score 50-45. Coach Prohm immediately called a timeout to regroup.
The timeout turned out to be a great decision, as ISU scored on its next three possessions. Georges Niang hit a triple, Jameel McKay put in a dunk, and Nader made a layup to extend the lead to 57-45. From there, the Cyclones scored 12 of their last 19 points from the free throw line to seal the victory.
Iowa State's leading scorer for the night was Monte Morris, who tallied 19 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Niang and Nader added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Matt Thomas also played well, scoring 11 points and grabbing 6 rebounds from the off-guard position. Deonte Burton and Ashton combined for 9 points off the bench.
The next game for the Cyclones will be a Big Monday date at home against the Oklahoma Sooners. That game will tip at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.
For the full box score of tonight's game, click here.