DES MOINES — That one had all of the makings of a vintage Iowa State/Northern Iowa basketball game. You know the game that I am talking about. This game makes you want to heave. These games consist of old man basketball (Hickory High anyone?) and clock bleeding. These games bore you to tears, numb your mind and gray your hair. After it is over, you hide in your cubicle for the next three days, you know, to avoid all of those blatant Purple Hawks at the water-cooler.
This time however, in dramatic fashion, the Cyclones actually took care of its in-state business. Iowa State trialed Northern Iowa by 18 points with 16:44 to play, but on the heels of a 23-2 second half run, defeated Panthers 91-82 (in overtime) in the second-annual Big 4 Classic.
“They came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing them and we kept taking them,” Fred Hoiberg said after the game. “They were very well prepared and I knew that they would be.”
UNI led 42-29 at the half, a span of 20 minutes where the Cyclones only dished out three assists on 12 field goals. In the first half, Iowa State went 3-for-13 from 3-point range, 2-for-7 from the charity stripe and was out-rebounded 21-15.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Melvin Ejim said. “Our body language was bad. We just couldn’t get on a roll.”
To make matters worse, “The Well” more closely resembled a morgue than a basketball arena.
But as they have done three times now already this season, when the Cyclones appeared to be left for dead, the Cyclones fought back. That is the good news stemming from this game. On a neutral floor vs. a team that played its best basketball game of the season, Iowa State clawed back and improved to 7-0. This sets the stage for Friday’s showdown with the University of Iowa.
The bad news?
“That’s three games that we’ve won now where we have rallied from double-digit deficits,” Hoiberg said. “Man, you don’t want to get in a habit of doing that. That’s too slow of a start out of the locker room. We’re playing good teams and that has something to do with it.”
The Cyclones won’t see the purple and gold again for another two years and something tells me that the folks up in Ames won’t be complaining about that either.
“Great teams find a way to win games like this,” Hoiberg said.
Niang’s big bounce-back
Sophomore Georges Niang arguably played the worst game of his career last Monday against Auburn. That certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday. In a first half in that the majority of his teammates slept through, Niang scored 11 of Iowa State’s 29 points. Niang ended the night 9-for-16 from the field with 22 points.
“After the Auburn game, Georges was in the gym at 6 a.m. the next day,” Hoiberg said. “Then, he was in at noon. We had an off day. Then, he was in again at 6. He was in the gym three times on that off day.”
Melvin Ejim was clutch as can be in the victory. The senior scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half. Ejim was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Dustin Hogue (17 and 14) and DeAndre Kane (18 and 11) each collected double-doubles respectively.
To foul or not to foul?
Oh, by the way, it happened again.
UNI’s Seth Tuttle went all ‘Ben McLemore’ on Iowa State and banked in a prayer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to send this game into overtime. This, of course, leads us back to the age-old question, should you foul up three late in the game?
“We go back and forth,” Hoiberg said after the game. “I have a hell of a time making a decision about anything to be honest with you.”
Hoiberg went on.
“A game a couple of nights ago, I was watching Gregg Popovich and he said, ‘I never foul up three.’ It changed my tune for a minute,” Hoiberg said. “Now, maybe I’ll go back the other way. We work on both. I thought we defended the play beautifully. When he stepped up and banked in a three, I am sick of seeing banked in threes at the end of games I’ll tell you that.”