Jameel McKay, who has been maligned by everyone covering Iowa State this season, saved his best game of the Big 12 conference season for an unseasonably warm Saturday night in Ames as he poured in 14 points and collected 17 rebounds in Iowa State's 80-61 victory over Kansas State.
The win is the Cyclones' 20th on the season and moves them to a 9-7 conference record, which keeps them a game ahead of Texas Tech for 6th in the conference and a potential date with Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
Georges Niang and Monte Morris received curtain calls in what could be both's second to last game in Hilton Coliseum. Niang finished with 17 points on 7-9 shooting while Morris had a quiet game with 11 points, 8 assists, and a surprising 4 turnovers. Matt Thomas kept up the "12 points = Cyclone Win" as he dropped 20 points including 5-8 from deep and had a mini-run in the second half that broke the game open. Deonte Burton and Abdel Nader combined for 8 points, which was 2 points less than Hallice Cooke's hard earned 10 off the bench.
For those keeping score at home that's 24 points from the Iowa State bench tonight with McKay and Cooke carrying the load.
As the Cyclones are wont to do, a slow first half kept Kansas State close as sloppy play and a "let them play" attitude kept the scoring depressed and the shots from falling. Niang scored all 10 of his first half points early and a four point play by Thomas gave the Cyclones a 17-14 lead halfway through the half. The teams traded punches through the rest of the half with Niang and Burton earning themselves foul trouble. A Monte Morris buzzer beating three put the Cyclones up 31-30 at halftime.
The second half started much like the first half ended with the teams coming out trading scores but then Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas teamed up for a rebound by Nader, three pointer by Thomas, steal by Nader, and three pointer for Thomas that created a quick 6-0 swing, a 45-39 Cyclone lead, and a timeout by Bruce Weber. The timeout did little to stem the tide as another three by Cooke and a bucket by Thomas stretched the lead to 11.
Through defensive effort the Cyclones eventually stretched the lead to 60-45 with 10 minutes remaining and gave the Hilton crowd little doubt that home court would be defended. The Wildcats attempted to chip away at the lead occasionally, but never got closer than eight points. In the end Steve Prohm elected to pull the starters, let Niang and Morris have their day in the sun, and let the bench close out the game.
Iowa State is back in action on Monday night at 6 PM against Oklahoma State on Senior Night as Niang, Nader, McKay, and potentially Morris, close out their careers in Hilton Coliseum. Be in attendance if you can, and if you cannot, then tune in on ESPNU.