The Cyclones came out with a 76-69 victory over perhaps one of the most underrated teams in the country in Texas Tech Wednesday night.
Iowa State was in trouble early, losing Georges Niang two minutes into the game after he committed a couple quick fouls. However, a fast start by Jameel McKay was what kept the Cyclones in the game, as the Red Raiders had a difficult time keeping up with his pace and stopping him on the boards. Just five minutes into the game, McKay had 8 points and 5 rebounds. Matt Thomas added a transition three while Abdel Nader had a monstrous dunk, giving Iowa State an 13-7 lead early in the game.
The next few minutes became the Monte Morris show, as he put up 6 of the next 9 Iowa State points, all of which he created himself. After a quick steal and pass to McKay for a dunk followed by a long jumper by Hallice Cooke, the Cyclones forced Tubby Smith to call his first timeout at the 8:39 mark with a 28-13 lead. The timeout didn't help, as McKay stole a pass on the Red Raiders' first possession and came up with an assist to Morris, who drilled a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run by Iowa State.
Texas Tech wasn't going to give up, as they responded with a 10-0 run of their own as the Cyclone defense slowed down a bit while the offense was struggling to find its touch. The run ended as Thomas faked his defender and drove in for a deuce. After a Keenan Evans layup for Texas Tech, Thomas fired back with a triple.
Niang was called for his third foul after a charge at the 3:37 mark in the first half. At the under-4 timeout, ISU led TTU 36-27.
The rest of the half was a back and forth crap shoot, with the only eventful activity was the loud cheer from the crowd as acknowledged by ESPN analyst Clay Matvick and Tim Welsh, for the officials calling a foul on Texas Tech's Keenan Evans at the 1:16 mark. The call ended an 8+ minute clip of Tech going without a foul. The Cyclones went into the locker room with a 40-30 lead, but had a feeling that it should've been much closer.
What kept it from being a bigger lead was personal fouls. Of the seven "typical" Cyclone players, Thomas and Morris (0) were the only two without 2 fouls. Niang played just over three minutes, and it forced the rest of the defense to play much softer with the offense being less aggressive.
Morris, McKay, and Thomas acted as a three-headed beast on the court. Two of Morris' four assists led to Thomas long balls, while the other two led to a simple shot for McKay. The Cyclones were also able to hold Texas Tech's two leading scorers, Devaugntah Williams and Toddrick Gotcher, to a combined 5 points.
Texas Tech started the 2nd half on a 9-2 run, aided by an 0-9 field goal drought from the Cyclones that ended after a Niang reverse layup. Heading into the first media timeout, Iowa State was leading 45-39.
The Cyclone offense remained stagnant, missing open shots and back to back shots directly under the hoop. Scoring just four points in a 4.5 minute span, Iowa State allowed Texas Tech to get back in the game. Justin Gray drilled a three over Cooke to make it just a one point lead for the Cyclones with 12 minutes remaining.
A smooth Deonte Burton pass found Thomas in the corner for three that brought Hilton to life, but wasn't able to provide enough of a spark for the offense, as Niang and Thomas missed back to back open threes, followed by a missed lob for the oop from Morris to McKay. The following possession, McKay hit two free throws after getting fouled, and Iowa State had a 56-52 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
It was clearly those free throws, making Jameel McKay 8-8 on the night from the stripe, that finally got the offense rolling. The next possession, Niang kissed one off the glass, and Abdel Nader hit Thomas in the corner for another 3-pointer, giving the Cyclones a quick 7-0 run, a loud Hilton, and a 61-52 lead.
The Red Raiders weren't going to give up. The defense forced two quick Cyclone turnovers, and a Gotcher drive to the basket, a tip in from Justin Gray, and a pair of free throws, and TTU cut the game to just three points. After another free throw from McKay, Zach Smith dunked it home for Texas Tech, and Iowa State had just a 62-60 lead until Niang drilled a three with 4:40 remaining, and Steve Prohm called his second to last timeout.
Coming out of the under-4 timeout, Niang hit a huge turnaround jumper to give Iowa State a five point lead, but Gotcher responded with a drive to the basket to make a three point game. Morris hit a floater, but Nader received his fourth foul on the defensive end in which Justin Gray made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a four point game.
Nader attempted a drive, but met three Red Raiders on his way to the hoop and lost the ball. TTU couldn't capitalize on the fast break and turned the ball over, and Morris found Thomas open for another three. Texas Tech's offense again turned the ball over and Morris found Nader on an easy alley oop to give Iowa State a 74-65 lead with a minute remaining, putting the final nail in the coffin.
After a Gotcher layup, Iowa State broke the press and found McKay under the hoop, who decided to class it up, and instead of tearing the building down, elected to just lay the ball in. By the time the final buzzer went off, Iowa State came out with a 76-69 victory over a high quality Texas Tech team.
The Cyclones were able to hold the Red Raiders top two point scorers below their season averages, which provided a major boost for Iowa State's chances to win this game. The defense was less aggressive in the second half, allowing easier baskets for Texas Tech, but also only fouling five times in the entire half.
Thomas' final three to ice the game gave him 22 points, a new career high. McKay finished with 19 points and 14 boards, while Morris had 11 points and 6 assists. Niang had 14 points, all coming in the second half.
The Cyclones move to 12-2 and 1-1 in the conference.
Iowa State faces Baylor (11-3, 1-1) at home on Saturday, January 9th at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.