After facing two Top-5 teams in a week's time, the basketball powers that be decided that Iowa State needed to play another one in Texas A&M. Though Aggie appears to be the best team in the
dreadful football-focused SEC, today's game was easily their toughest test of the season. They handled it well, beating ISU 72-62.
The game tipped off late, around 1:10, due to the foul-fest that was the Florida-West Virginia game, and once it did start, it was probably not seen by anyone outside of Reed Arena due to the gigantic flaming dumpster fire that is the WatchESPN App. To be fair, even the online basketball-streaming websites didn't have access to the game either. Not that I would know, or anything...
The game started rather uneventfully, which is probably a good thing since nobody saw it (THANKS AGAIN ESPN). Both teams started with empty trips down the floor, but the Cyclones took the lead on a tough bucket from Nader. The first four minutes consisted of many missed shots and a few baskets for each team. After the under 16 timeout, a Thomas deeeeep 3-pointer was sandwiched between two incredibly easy dunks for Danuel House (Nader doesn't like playing defense sometimes).
Following this head scratching sequence, Nader had a sweet drive and dunk, and Georges Niang cashed a 3-pointer, marking the only good thing he managed to do in the first half. This three was followed by a three from reserve DJ Hogg, though shortly after that Matt Thomas did his best Helen Keller impersonation in leaving a 30-footer way short while the students roared "Air-ball, Air-ball". For the next several minutes, Iowa State's bench began to carry the load for the Cyclones. Deonte Burton provided some offense and played probably his best defense to date, and Hallice Cooke (!!!!!!) nailed a big three pointer.
Down the stretch in the first half Big Game Tae, who had been held relatively quiet on offense to go with a few uncharacteristic turnovers, took over, hitting back-to-back floaters to pull the Cyclones within two. After a Thomas rebound on Aggie's last possession, Morris held for a last second shot, DeAndre Kane style. Though his shot didn't go in, Deonte Burton grabbed the rebound, and seemed astonished to be so wide open underneath the basket, and punished the rim with a one-handed slam to close out the half. Score: 30-30. Tie ball game.
. @CycloneMBB's Deonte Burton puts it down!— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) January 30, 2016
Tied up at the half. #BIG12SEC https://t.co/9mac0pd0Bk
To recap... Biggest 1st half storylines: Aggie went 1-14 from three, nine combined points from Niang/Morris, and 16 from the combo of Jones/House. The bad in the first half for the Cyclones: Sloppy play (9 turnovers), an invisible Georges Niang (5 pts, 3 boards, 1 assist), and weak play inside. The latter of these has to be attributed to Jameel McKay, whose struggles with a knee injury have been well documented. The Cyclones were out-rebounded and gave up offensive boards, as well as easy looks at the rim.
The good? Bench points, the defensive play of both Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton, and the fact that despite being largely out-played, the Cyclones were tied with the Aggies at the break.
The Cyclones came running out of the gates in the second half, as a McKay lob and a Niang bucket put the Cyclones up by 4. Unfortunately, that hot start would evaporate in a hurry, thanks largely in part to an absolutely awful, no-good, terrible stretch by McKay. He would not only give up 2 straight fouls on made lay-ups, but would surrender inside position to Tyler Davis for another easy bucket, and miss a lob dunk. In addition, Niang went to the bench with his 3rd personal foul.
The four minutes after the under 16 timeout were dominated by Texas A&M. Though struggling as a team, big man Tonny Trocha-Morelos (quite the name), hit back-to-back three pointers, followed by reserve DJ Hogg canning one as well. To make matters worse, Georges Niang picked up his fourth personal foul on a charge at the 11:43 mark.
But as one door closes, Burton opened another, for shortly after checking into the game, he got a steal which lead to an amazing fast-break dunk. Following yet another missed free throw for the Cyclones, Nader got a steal, took the ball the length of the court, and hit Thomas for a three. Now ahead by one, McKay showed a flash of his old self, grabbing an offensive board and getting the put back, forcing a Billy Kennedy timeout.
The up and down nature of this game would continue after this timeout. The Cyclones couldn't keep themselves from turning it over, and the Aggies took advantage. And when I say turnovers, I mean travels. Seriously, how many walks have been called on the Clones in the past few games... Answer? Too many.
To make matters worse Niang, who checked in near the 6 minute mark and promptly made a layup, came up with a serious limp, causing blood pressure levels to spike across the state of Iowa.
Niang, thankfully, would check back in a short time later, as McKay tied the game with a free throw. Morris quickly gave the Cyclones the lead with a steal and bucket, but then Danuel House said "Not in my house!", as he nailed a deep three and got a tough layup to bounce home. This, and a 3 point Aggie lead, prompted Steve Prohm to take a timeout at the 3 minute mark in an attempt to corral the troops.
After going down 5, Niang was fouled, and proceeded to miss the front end of the 1 and 1. A Tyler Davis tip-in made the lead seven with 1:43 left, and Niang going to the free throw line for two shots, making both. He then, naturally, fouled out attempting a steal on the ensuing inbound play. A missed front end of a 1 and 1 would give the Cyclones the ball back with 1:27 left on the clock, down 5 points.
A quick, ill-advised Nader three would be followed immediately by a massive Danuel House slam plus the foul, reminding everyone once again that Reed Arena is indeed, his house. After a few missed three's, and ensuing fouls by Iowa State, the game ended with a scene witnessed many times on this Saturday afternoon: yet another Danuel House dunk.
By far, the most telling statistic for the Cyclones was the fact that, outside of Niang and Burton, no Cyclone reached double figures in scoring, while Jones and House dropped in 33 points for the Aggies. While Iowa State out shot Texas A&M, and finished tied with 41 rebounds, the turnovers (16) and fouls down the stretch cost the Cyclones the game.
Not to mention a 4-12 effort from the free throw line for Iowa State.
While the Cyclones winning streak came to an end, this is a game that means little to the Cyclones overall. Iowa State's non-conference schedule will hold up regardless of today's outcome, and "Distraction Saturday" is finally behind the Cyclones.
Up next: a home match-up with the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday night in Hilton Coliseum.