Cincinnati (6-1) ended Iowa State’s (5-2) 37-game home nonconference winning streak with a 55-54 OT win at Hilton Coliseum. The Bearcats dominated the offensive glass while frustrating the Cyclones with physical, interior play on both ends. Cincinnati outrebounded Iowa State, 46-34, including 16 offensive rebounds. Jacob Evans made two free throws with 20.1 seconds left in overtime, and Naz Mitrou-Long missed everything on an off-balance three that would have won the game for the Cyclones.
This game was back and forth from the start with Iowa State jumping out to a 22-15 lead before Cincinnati finished the half on a 10-2 run to take a one-point lead.
The Cyclones would go on a 7-0 run to take control in the second half, but once again, the Bearcats would fight back, taking a 44-42 lead with 5:32 left in the game. Cincinnati’s Gary Clark hit a shot in the lane to tie it at 50-50 before Mitrou-Long nearly hit a long three to win the game for the Cyclones. It would rim out, and we headed to overtime.
It was more of the same ugly play with the teams combining for just nine total points in five minutes of play. Evans was fouled with three seconds left on the shot clock on the Bearcats’ last possession. He would convert on both free throws to take the lead. Iowa State set up a play but was unable to find a good shot before Mitrou-Long’s last failed attempt. Morris led the Cyclones with 15 points.
- Iowa State has been struggling to keep opponents off the offensive glass for a few years now. The roster is built for offense and not physical interior play. It’s frustrating, but get used to it, especially when conference season rolls around.
- Most of the post-game frustration was directed at the late-game execution, and for good reason. For the second game in a row, the Iowa State offense came to a screeching halt when the game was on the line. Head coach Steve Prohm needs to find a different option than Morris going one-on-one. It didn’t work last season. It hasn’t worked this season. Some ball movement and screening could possibly take some of the focus off the Cyclone star.
- At what point do we start worrying about the Cyclones’ outside shooting? Iowa State was 5-21 from three on Thursday and shooting just 33.3% coming into the game. The more troubling part is the lack of good looks.
- Mitrou-Long has struggled this season. Whether it’s injuries, a rusty shot or adjusting to a more prominent role, Mitrou-Long has been frustrating to watch. Sure, he’s averaging 13 points per game, but the schedule has been soft, and he’s now 13-49 from three on the season. It’s not just the missed shots. It’s the hero-ball shot selection that is killing the Cyclones. The fifth-year senior has to be better.
- After a weekend when Deonte Burton became a national story (to CBB nerds, anyway), he was unable to find any rhythm. Two fouls kept him on the bench in the first half, and despite some good effort, he was never able to get things going.
- On a positive note, the strong defensive performances to start the season don’t appear to be a fluke. Cincinnati is no offensive juggernaut, but the Cyclones look like willing defenders that understand their rotations. That’s a good sign.
- Personal note: Mid-way through the first half, I felt a profound longing for the fast-paced style of basketball we’ve seen the past five years. The slow, grueling pace we were watching kept the crowd out of it, and it was painful, almost awkward, to watch.
- It was not a good night, but it’s a long season and Cincinnati is a strong squad. There’s usually 4-5 story arcs in a single basketball season. This is our first. Be patient for now.
Next up: Omaha (3-4) at Hilton Coliseum, 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5