This game started in a fashion that provided horrid flashbacks to the last Iowa State/West Virginia game for Cyclone fans, a rainbow West Virginia jumper.
The Cyclones were not phased early on, however, at least not Abdel Nader. The senior forward continued his torrid stretch of late by recording 8 of the first 14 Iowa State points, including two corner 3's which is quickly becoming a consistent threat for the Iowa State offense.
The first big run of the game went to West Virginia as they rode the back of Jaysean Paige and some careless Iowa State turnovers on a 12-0 spurt to take the lead at 20-14. Jameel McKay, the first Cyclone to enter in relief, was able to stem the tide as he finished an alleyoop from Monte Morris. McKay brought a lot of energy and effort off the bench, but it seemed nothing was going to cure Iowa State's rebounding woes.
The Cyclones had to do everything it could on offense to stay in this one early. Making their first four three-pointers, was a good start, but as the half wore on it proved to not be enough. Iowa State was fairly active and successful in their first shot defense, but still managed to give up 49 points in a first half where they outshot the Mountaineers 58% to 45%.
You can attribute all of that noise to one factor: Rebounds.
Iowa State was out-rebounded 23-14 in the initial stanza and gave up 17 second chance points on 13 West Virginia offensive rebounds. Compound that with nine Iowa State first half turnovers, and you get a frustrating 8-point, halftime deficit.
Tarik Phillip provided a spark off the bench as he came in and immediately knocked down his first two triples, however, it was Jaysean Paige who paced the Mountaineers. Paige followed up his 23-point performance in Ames with 17 first half points in Morgantown. Abdel Nader led the way for the Cyclones with 13 first half points and Monte Morris pitched in 9 himself.
Georges Niang came out of the halftime break aggressively, getting to the free throw line and providing a welcome sight for Iowa State fans. A defensive rebound. After a Morris coast-to-coast layup and another Nader corner three, it seemed Iowa State was making a move.
Indeed they were. A Deonte Burton steal and lay up, and a Matt Thomas triple gave the Cyclones their first lead in eight minutes of action. Unfortunately, the Cyclones were unable to open it up as Niang was hit with his third personal on a dead ball technical foul.
The two teams traded buckets as the West Virginia crowd serenaded the hot-shooting Abdel with chants of "NA-DER, NA-DER." Iowa State knotted the score at 60 with a beautiful counter to the Mountaineer press that resulted in a Nader to McKay alley-oop that would have made Doug Gottlieb say something more inappropriate than just UHHHHHH.
Jaysean Paige returned the favor of the dead ball technical foul, as he was called for taunting after Niang threw the ball into the Iowa State bench.
Iowa State held a three point lead after free throws by Thomas and Burton, until Phillip answered for West Virginia and tied the game with his fourth three pointer. A few possessions later he gave West Virginia the lead with his fifth at 70-69. The Mountaineers would lead the rest of the way.
West Virginia's lead seemed stuck between 2-6 points as foul problems mounted for Iowa State. Both McKay and Niang were saddled with four fouls with more than six and a half minutes remaining, leaving the Cyclones' already shallow front court even shorter.
As the fouls began to mount, so did the West Virginia lead as Iowa State was unable to find any answer for Jaysean Paige, who tallied 34 points off the bench. Coach Prohm tried switching to zone after the under four timeout, but that proved to be ineffective as Devin Williams was able to get an offensive board and put back prior to Tarik Phillip's sixth three point field goal of the game.
Free throw shooting would ice the game for the Mountaineers as Niang and McKay fouled out of the contest. Niang's frustrated facial expressions as he exited, summed up the game better than I can.
Mountaineers win 97-87.
The Cyclones return home to host the rematch with Bruce Weber's Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday at 5:00pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.