Blum: Coffee is for closers
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Kansas City, Mo. --- In order to win in March a team needs to have some nasty. Postseason basketball is won in the trenches. Iowa State out-slugged a gritty effort from Kansas State to prevail in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament 91-85.
With the game tied at 76 and DeAndre Kane on the bench after fouling out, Iowa State closed with a vengeance. The Cyclones scored on eight of their final nine possessions to knock out the Wildcats.
"We had our backs against the wall in a couple situations, fought through adversity and found a way to get a win," Fred Hoiberg said. "We handled some really tough situations out there."
If Iowa State does have success the rest of their postseason, it will be because of their ability to find buckets at the most paramount time.
Georges Niang hit a couple tough runners, Naz Long buried a monster three and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim orchestrated a no-look bank shot that finally broke the Cats.
"Melvin was unbelievable all night long and that basket he made late to keep our lead was as big of basket as we had," Hoiberg said.
The Cyclones would not have been in position to close late if it wasn't for the unsung work of their, Mr. Rugged, Dustin Hogue. Hogue scored a Big 12 high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Cyclones out-tussle the Wildcats to a plus nine advantage on the boards. Hogue hadn't scored 19 points since early December. The normally selective Hogue even hit two step back fade-aways to give the Cyclones a life preserver.
"I just play my role most of the time, but with a couple key guys out I decided to be more aggressive. And I started to hit some shots," Hogue said.
"Dustin Hogue did everything today. He has always been a guy that has done the dirty work and doesn't get the credit he deserves. He made some huge plays for us on offense," Hoiberg said.
It was fitting that one of the most physical players in the Big 12 thrived in a game that mostly resembled a fight. Niang joked before the game that any match with K-State is a bar fight. In this case, these were a couple coordinated drunks. Every possession was critical, shots were going in and whistles seemed life and death.
Fouls played a huge role as Iowa State's DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang joined K-State star Marcus Foster in the purgatory of foul trouble-dom. It opened the door for others to step up and K-State's Nigel Johnson soared to 19 points after coming in averaging just three. The disciplined Wildcats scored 41 points off the bench and shot 55 percent from the floor. The biggest lead of the game on either side was eight points. Yet it was Iowa State that finished the job.
"They match up really well with us, that's why it is always a close game. It comes down to who can make shots and get stops," Ejim said.
Fortunately for Iowa State, they did make the shots down the stretch. In March, every possession is critical and the Cyclones can grind with the best of them.
Fred Hoiberg's club earned a cup of the finest Joe, because as Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross, "Coffee is for Closers."