And so it has arrived. Tonight marks the final home game for three seniors and culminates the home career of one of the all-time greats in Georges Niang. It will be an emotional evening for Niang and Cyclone fans alike, but above all else, it will be a celebration of one of the best to ever don the Cardinal and Gold.
Oklahoma State shouldn't provide much of test for Iowa State, but this is a pivotal game that the Cyclones need to remain in the conversation for a top half of the conference finish. Per Cyclones.com, Iowa State has won six straight Senior Night contests and this will be the third time in four years that Iowa State rounds out the home schedule against the Cowboys.
A Word On the Seniors
Get there early, Cyclone fans. Take it all in and make sure to stick around after. Steve Prohm shared after Saturday's win that each of the departing seniors would be speaking to the crowd following Monday's game.
Austin Narber penned this fabulous tribute to Niang over the weekend and really, we at WRNL could spend an entire month celebrating Niang's time as a Cyclone and it still wouldn't do justice to just how remarkable Niang has been. I'd venture to guess that there may not be a dry eye in the house after Niang addresses the home crowd for the final time.
My wife and I don't have season tickets, but I told her last week that I didn't care what it cost, we had to be there for Georges' last home game. And so we will and it will likely be one of the most bittersweet moments of my Cyclone fandom. As bizarre as this sounds coming from a 31-year-old man, I respect the hell out of Georges Niang and admire everything about him. He's taught us humility and self-respect. He's been patient, accessible and gracious. He's resilient, mature and a perfect representative of what it means to be a Cyclone.
Hell, I'm going to come right out and say it; Fred Hoiberg abdicated his permanent appointment as The Mayor nearly a year ago and since that time, the office has remained unattended. Ladies and gentlemen, Georges Niang is the new mayor of Ames.
Trust me, I'm as big of a Fred Hoiberg fan as there is and to me, he'll always be The Mayor, but the time has come to appoint a new face of Cyclone basketball and what better candidate than Niang.
Of course, we'll also be tipping the cap to Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay, who have earned their fair due. Nader's contributions were minimal as a junior (though we'll never forget his 19-point effort in the 90-75 slaughter in Iowa City), but Nader has saved some of his best work for this final stretch. Prior to Saturday's game, Nader had notched three straight 20-point outings and in conference play only, he's the Big 12's 9th leader scorer and 6th best 3-point marksman.
McKay's senior year hasn't been the dominant effort that many of us expected, but he finally seems to have gotten his head right and he did some great things on the floor against Kansas State, scoring 14 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking 3 shots in 31 minutes off the bench. McKay will not repeat as Big 12 defensive player of the year and he likely won't even land on one of the all-conference teams, but McKay still has the opportunity to seal his legacy as Iowa State moves into post-season play.
There's also another member of the team who could possibly be playing his last game in Hilton Coliseum. Monte Morris is certainly not a guaranteed first-rounder, but with a deep post season run, he could play himself into NBA draft pick status.
The Prior Meeting
Playing without the services of Jameel McKay, Iowa State shook off a dismal start to steal a 64-59 win for their third straight victory in Stillwater. The Cyclones trailed 12-3 at the 10:26 mark in the first half, but got hot from deep to go into the break down only 24-22. In the second half, Iowa State built a 13-point lead and held off a late Cowboy charge to secure the win.
Niang led Iowa State in scoring with 18 points. He also had 9 rebounds and 3 assists on the day. Monte Morris and Matt Thomas scored 16 points a piece and Morris dished out 8 assists. Deonte Burton also chipped in 11 points for the Cyclones.
Iowa State only attempted 8 free throws and turned it over 13 times, but the Cyclones hit 10-18 from outside to offset the shaky start.
Jeffrey Carroll paced the Pokes with 18 points, knocking down 4-7 from deep. Oklahoma State was playing without Jawun Evans and his replacement, Tyree Griffin, scored only 4 points and handed out 3 assists. The Cowboys only attempted 3 free throws and hit just 7 of 27 from deep in the loss.
So Who Wins?
Oklahoma State is a capable defensive team (62nd in adjusted defensive efficiency), but the Cowboys have been ruined by injuries and come into Ames at 12-17 overall and 3-13 in Big 12 play. Losers of their last four games and 7 of their last 8, the end of this miserable season can't get here soon enough for Travis Ford's team.
Without Phil Forte and Evans in the line up, Oklahoma State simply can't generate enough scoring chances to keep pace and haven't scored 70 or more in a game since a January 30th win over Auburn. Were it not for a dreadfully bad TCU outfit, the Cowboys would find themselves at the bottom of just about every offensive category in the league.
According to kenpom.com, Oklahoma State's adjusted tempo clocks in at 334th nationally, so expect Ford's team to drag out possessions and do everything in their power to limit Iowa State's transition opportunities. There's just one small problem; after Saturday's victory, the Cyclones now have the top adjusted offensive unit in the country and have averaged more than 86 points over their last six games.
Should Iowa State prevail, it will be the first time in more than a month that the Cyclones will have managed to win consecutive games. For that to happen, especially on a quick turn around, it would make sense for Steve Prohm to stick with the deeper rotation he employed on Saturday. The 60 combined minutes that Jameel McKay, Hallice Cooke and Jordan Ashton played were the most time the bench has seen in Big 12 action.
The Cyclones have won six straight in this series and I feel pretty confident in saying that you can go ahead and pencil them down for a seventh straight against an undermanned and overmatched Oklahoma State team.
Iowa State 81 - Oklahoma State 67
Tip: 6 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Oklahoma State SB Nation Site: Cowboys Ride For Free