By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Iowa State tipped off 2011 on Saturday with an 86-77 win over Lehigh, but don’t let that final score fool you. This game wasn’t as close as that score would indicate.
Here’s a recap of what went down as the Cyclones are 1-0, looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with the Drake Bulldogs.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Royce White – After Saturday’s win, a reporter asked Royce White to sum up how he thought he played against Lehigh.
"Okay," said the sophomore.
If 25 points and 11 rebounds are only "okay," then Iowa State basketball fans better saddle up for a wild ride this season.
White’s debut as a Cyclone couldn’t have gone any better as he went 9-for-15 from the field in 34 minutes of play.
White was a man amongst boys in the paint.
And then there was this…
“It looked to me like he took about three dribbles and just went up there and dunked it. It was a great take," said head coach Fred Hoiberg of the jam. “He just went in there and tomahawked it. It got the crowd into it.”
Here’s what White had to say about his dunk, that was already on YouTube before the second half began.
“When I penetrate, it is usually a penetrate and kick type of deal," said White. "They weren’t really sagging in. They hadn’t seen me play that much so they probably didn’t respect me much going to the basket. When I saw that they weren’t stepping in I just thought to myself about getting it up on the basket because there was no pass.”
There’s more to take from White’s performance than individual stats though. When White’s 270-pound frame dominates the paint like it did on Saturday, shots open up for everybody else.
It leaves Iowa State’s shooters licking their chops.
“We saw what he can really do in a game. That’s going to draw a lot of attention on him," said junior Chris Babb. "He’s great at finding teammates and now that they see that he can drive like that, it’s going to open up everything else for our offense.”
Second half defense – The Cyclones took a 42-39 lead into the half, a half where Lehigh shot 53.6 percent from the field. The second 20 minutes of play were a different story. Iowa State’s intensity picked up and Lehigh’s field goal percentage went down, dropping to 37.1 percent in half number two.
Rebounding – Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff obsessed over rebounding in practice this week after last Sunday’s disappointing performance in an exhibition win over Grand Valley State. It was in that scrimmage where a division two team was tied with Iowa State on the boards at halftime. On Saturday against a Lehigh team that out-rebounded an athletic St. John’s squad on Thursday, the Cyclones came to play and snagged 10 more boards than the Mountain Hawks.
“That’s a huge emphasis that we’ve put in practice, so much so that we haven’t been able to work on some of the other things because we are really getting after each other on the rebounding end," said Hoiberg. "I’m happy with it. It can still get better."
Iowa State only allowed Lehigh one offensive rebound in the first half.
"That’s going to be one of our things all year, is really focusing on rebounding," said Babb. "It’s kind of what we’ve been struggling with so far.”
Anthony Booker – You can’t judge a book by its cover right? Well, you can’t judge a basketball player by an exhibition game either. Anthony Booker, a transfer from Southern Illinios, was a shot of 5 Hour Energy off of the bench for Iowa State on Saturday by scoring 10 points in only 20 minutes of action in relief of Melvin Ejim who battled foul trouble. He went 4-for-4 from the field and tacked on five rebounds as well.
“Booker was awesome. He didn’t play great last week in the scrimmage," said Hoiberg. “He gave us a lift when we needed it. He was in there for that entire run in the second half, when Melvin picked up his fourth. Great energy by Book. He has range. He can step out there and knock down that shot. I thought that he played very physical and got in there to get us some extra boards.”
Turnovers – Iowa State turned the basketball over 18 times in the win, eight more than the opposition.
Despite his impressive performance elsewhere, White turned the ball over six times.
“The six turnovers, that’s not him," said Hoiberg. "I thought that he tried to squeeze a couple of passes through too many hands. We have too many weapons to turn the ball over 18 times.”
Finish – Lehigh outscored Iowa State 24-7 over the last 7:37 in the game. Did it matter? No. But Hoiberg didn’t appreciate the fact.
“That’s unacceptable, when you have a 26-point lead with seven and a half left and you only win the game by nine," said Hoiberg. "I just talked to our guys about continuing to play, push and keep putting the pressure on the defense.”
Melvin Ejim – After going off for 26 points in last Sunday’s exhibition, sophomore Melvin Ejim fought foul trouble all day long. Ejim scored six points in only 15 minutes of play. Due to the fact that Booker stepped in so admirably, this was much less noticeable to the naked eye. Efficiency wasn’t a problem, as Ejim was 3-for-3 from the field.
— Despite the fact that he is currently suffering from a hip pointer injury, guard Chris Allen started and scored 10 points for Iowa State in the win. Allen missed two days of practice this week, but his status is improving by the day.
“He probably won’t be 100 percent for a while yet but he’s definitely better than what he was last week," said Hoiberg.
— The streak lives. Scott Christopherson made two 3-pointers on Saturday, extending his 3-pointer made streak to 35 consecutive games, which is a school record.
— Iowa State is now 85-20 all-time in season-opening games.
— The Cyclones were an impressive 16-for-21 from the charity stripe on Saturday. White went 7-for-9, while Christopherson was 6-for-6.