By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
The combination of finals week, a flat Hilton Coliseum without students and an average mid-major opponent being in town resulted in a rusty Iowa State men’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon.
The Cyclones looked like a shade of the team that beat Iowa a little over a week ago in an underwhelming 59-52 win over Central Michigan.
After taking a nine-point lead into halftime, Iowa State was outscored by Central Michigan 22-12 in the first 12:39 of the second half. With 6:10 to play, Iowa State junior Tyrus McGee picked up a steal and followed it up with a crowd-pumping jam that eventually led to Iowa State’s eighth win of the season.
“Thank God for Tyrus," exhaled Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg after the game. "He was the one guy out there who was just fighting through everything. Those plays that he made at the end of the game were huge and that’s the only reason that we won this game was because of the intensity of Tyrus."
McGee ended the game with 11 points while going 5-of-6 from the field. Royce White led the Cyclones in scoring with 14.
As we’ve seen quite a few times already this season, McGee’s energy off of the bench sparked a lackluster effort in every aspect of the game.
“He was the one guy out there playing through mistakes," said Hoiberg. "When they went on a run, he was still talking out there. He brought it. He was a guy who was the heart and soul of that game today.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tyrus McGee – If a coach thanks God for a player in his postgame press conference, it’s a pretty good bet that that player will take home the hardware for Player of the Game.
Royce White agreed.
“I told him before we came in here the he had a number of big time plays on the defensive end that helped us clinch that down the stretch," said White of his teammate.
The 11 points and five rebounds show up in the box score but McGee’s defensive effort on Sunday does not. That’s an area where McGee has struggled so far this season, but Sunday was another story.
“Today was the best he’s been as far as being in the right spots," said Hoiberg.
Why is that?
“I read the scouting report twice last night before I went to sleep," said McGee.
Something tells me that McGee might be doing that more often from now on…
Rebounding – For the first half anyway…Iowa State took a 23-10 rebounding edge into halftime. However, the Chippewas out-rebounded the Cyclones 17-13 in the second half. At the end of the game, Iowa State stood tall with a 36-27 advantage. The Cyclones have out-rebounded 10 of 11 opponents so far this season.
Bench Play – Thirty-nine percent of Iowa State’s scoring on Sunday came from reserves (23 of 59 points). McGee had his 11. Melvin Ejim scored seven. Anthony Booker and BuBu Palo had three and two. With only three Cyclones finishing the game in double-figures, bench play was crucial in Iowa State not being upset.
Perimeter Defense – The Cyclones held Central Michigan to a 4-of-24 3-point shooting mark in the contest.
Guard Play – Iowa State’s three starting guards (Chris Allen, Chris Babb and Scott Christoperson) combined to go 4-for-18 from the field and 3-for-11 from 3-point range in the game.
“As a shooter, you are going to have days and nights like that," said Hoiberg. "You have to block it out and go out and contribute in other ways.”
Babb went 3-for-12 from the field for Iowa State. Meanwhile, Allen and Christopherson struggled to get in the flow at all, each attempting only three shots in the game.
Intensity – In going back to Hoiberg’s quote above, bouncing back and contributing elsewhere was an issue. As the shots weren’t falling (the Cyclones shot 43 percent from the field in the game), the defensive intensity wasn’t consistently there for Iowa State.
“It’s got to be 40 minutes," said Hoiberg. "It can’t be 20, or else you’re playing with fire.”
Hoiberg did credit his team for picking things up when they needed to.
“Our defense down the stretch was very solid, I will say that," said Hoiberg. "That’s what’s got to happen for the entire game. You can’t wait until the last three minutes and say, ‘We better pick it up now. The game is in doubt.’ You’ve got to find a way. You can’ feel sorry for yourself because that shot’s not falling.”
Turnovers – Iowa State 16, Central Michigan 11.