By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Northern Iowa made more shots down the stretch than Iowa State.
According to Panther head coach Ben Jacobson, that was the difference between the two programs in Northern Iowa’s 69-62 win over Iowa State on Wednesday night in Hilton Coliseum.
From an Iowa State perspective, the loss hardly seems that easy to comprehend.
When the going gets tough, it appears that this Iowa State team does not get going. Not yet at least.
After jumping out to a 14-4 lead in the first eight minutes of the game, the Cyclones soured and Northern Iowa ended the half on a 29-14 run.
“When things got tough for us, we put our heads down tonight", said Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg after the game. "Good basketball teams don’t do that. Good basketball teams play the same way whether it is going great or if it is going poor on the basketball floor."
As was the case on Nov. 15 against Drake, Iowa State had more talent than Northern Iowa. The Cyclones were bigger, faster and stronger than their Missouri Valley Conference counterpart. From a physical standpoint that is.
When it comes to teamwork, chemistry and the mental aspects of the game, these two teams weren’t even close.
“You have to find a way to play through the good and the bad when you are a basketball player," said Hoiberg. "We’ll get it. We’ll get there.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Royce White – Iowa State’s 6-foot-7, 270-pound forward scored 15 points, recorded 15 rebounds and for the third game in a row, led his team in assists (with five) in the loss.
Royce White after the game…
“I feel like I let the fans down you know? They pay good money to come see guys work hard and for us to lose that game is just letting them down. They showed up in great numbers today and supported us through the good and bad of the game.”
Still Early – Keep in mind that this is still November basketball with a team that was patched together from all over the country.
“I would tell you in general, anytime that you have new guys and it is early in the year, it’s hard," said Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson. "Your identity isn’t always established in the first two and a half weeks of the season. I like Iowa State’s team. I think Fred is doing a heck of a job.”
Losing to two in-state Missouri Valley schools in one offseason isn’t the way that most fans had anticipated this season starting. These growing pains that Iowa State is currently experiencing seem much more intense than most anticipated.
“If we play defense and communicate more and rebound, we win the game easily," said Chris Allen. "I’m not trying to be cocky or anything. I just feel like if we just put a body on somebody and stop them from getting to the hole…"
Allen has a point. Once that light permanently turns on for this team, the Cyclones have the potential to rattle off quite a few wins. That light appeared to have been flipped on during Iowa State’s last two games in South Padre, in W’s over Providence and Rice.
The issue is that the light has to stay on consistently.
“The guys we brought in, I am confident in. I do have confidence in our players," said Hoiberg. "They have to have confidence in themselves. That’s the big thing.”
Percy Gibson/Bubu Palo – I liked what I saw off of the bench from Bubu Palo and Percy Gibson in the loss.
When Melvin Ejim and Anthony Booker were both in foul trouble, Gibson scored four points in 13 minutes of play.
Palo played 17 minutes and scored five points for the Cyclones. Most importantly, he brought energy to the defensive end of the floor.
Points in paint – I know. I’m reaching here. Iowa State scored 26 points in the paint compared to Northern Iowa’s 18.
Third straight loss at Hilton to UNI – Not only has the Iowa State men’s basketball program now lost five-of-six to Northern Iowa, the Panthers have won three straight inside of Hilton Coliseum. Those stats are real stingers.
Rebounding/Defense – Leading up to this basketball game, you didn’t have to be Jay Bilas to know how important rebounding and tempo would be in determining the outcome. Northern Iowa out-rebounded the Cyclones 33-29 and that was that.
Defensively, communication and effort seemed to be the issues for the Cyclones once again, who allowed Northern Iowa to shoot 50 percent from the field in the second half.
“I think that we just got outplayed. I think that’s the bottom line," said Royce White. "We have to find a way to get stops down the stretch and string together stops and play harder. We got outplayed.”
Melvin Ejim – In 11 minutes of play, sophomore forward Melvin Ejim only attempted one shot and didn’t snag a single rebound in the loss. Ejim was in foul trouble for the majority of the game.
Ejim is now averaging only 6.3 points per game for Iowa State with 5.4 rebounds.
— In the first four minutes of the game, Chris Babb scored Iowa State’s first eight points. Chris Babb ended the night with eight points.
“This is D-1 basketball. A team isn’t going to let just one guy beat them," said Iowa State senior Chris Allen. "After Babb started hitting, they found a way to stop him from getting shots. They knew that he wanted to get some threes. After that, it was hard to get him the ball because they were on him. It seemed like nothing else was falling for us.”
— Iowa State was held to season lows in field goal shooting (42.3 percent), total points (62) and 3-pointers made (four) in the loss. It was also the first time that Iowa State had been out-rebounded all season long.
— Along with Royce White, Chris Allen scored 15 points to lead Iowa State in the loss. Allen has scored in double-figures in six of Iowa State’s seven games this season.