All wins in November are not created equal.
Sunday’s 77-70 triumph over No. 7 Michigan was a very good November win, but not great though (the Hilton factor).
Great wins in November are hard to come by. For a high-major program like Iowa State, most November non-conference games are played either at home or on a neutral floor.
Only crazy programs schedule games at Provo, Utah on Nov. 20…..
Iowa State’s excruciatingly stressful 90-88 victory at BYU on Wednesday night was a great November win for multiple reasons.
Reason No. 1
The game was played in Provo, Utah. If you want to know why that is an important reason, CLICK HERE and read the preview column that I wrote for this game. It will tell you all that you need to know. This win not only proved that Iowa State can win away from home, but that Sunday’s Michigan was anything but a fluke.
Reason No. 2
For the second game in a row, the Cyclones had to come back in the second half to pull off the W. Iowa State trailed BYU by as many as 12. That wasn’t the only adversity that the Cyclones overcame though.
DeAndre Kane was ejected because of a Flagrant 2 (a nasty, but what appeared to be unintentional eye poke to BYU’s Eric Mika).
Melvin Ejim fouled out (while telling the fine folks of Provo exactly what he thought of them along the way).
Dustin Hogue fouled out as well.
That left Iowa State with the following lineup in the game with a minute and a half to play: Monte Morris (freshman), Matt Thomas, (freshman), Naz Long (sophomore), Georges Niang (sophomore) and Daniel Edozie (junior, a JUCO junior with no experience whatsoever).
"That’s what you do,” Hoiberg said after the game. “You find a way to gut out a win when things are going against you."
Not all teams do that. Good teams do that. While it is still very early in the season, this Cyclone team has shown one very important characteristic that has to make everybody optimistic about the future.
It is a group that appears to possess mental toughness unlike either of the last two Hoiberg teams that both went to the NCAA Tournament. DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are the rocks. Georges Niang is the closer. The others know their roles.
Reason No. 3
Iowa State only made seven 3-pointers and still scored 90 points against one of the highest-scoring teams in America.
But wait a second – I thought that Fred Hoiberg’s program full of rogue transfers and felons (SARCASM ALERT) lives and dies by the three?
Reason No. 4
While I highly doubt that Hoiberg’s bench will consistently be deeper than seven or eight during Big 12 play (sans games against Texas Tech, Texas and TCU), other Cyclones stepped up in big moments on Wednesday night.
Case and point – let’s all give some mad props to Daniel Edozie. Here is a guy who from a sheer talent standpoint might be at the very bottom of the totem poll that is Iowa State’s roster. Yet, the JUCO transfer is a grinder. Edozie plays as hard as anybody on the team and made the biggest play of the night for the Cyclones when he rejected Tyler Haws on BYU’s final possession of the game.
Dustin Hogue was two points away from a double-double and once again proved that he is the most underrated player on this team.
And Matt Thomas? Well, I’ll get to him in a little bit.
Reason No. 5
It is a win that is guaranteed to create buzz. If you don’t think that buzz and rankings are important, you’re wrong. Recruits love buzz. Having a number next to your school’s name means that the program is doing something right. Fans love buzz. Selfishly, as the publisher of a fan site, I love buzz too (high traffic during the fourth quarter = yes please)!
Sure, Michigan was ranked seventh when the Cyclones beat them on Sunday, but Iowa State was favored in that game for a reason (those dudes in Vegas know their stuff). At tip-time Wednesday night, Iowa State was a 7-point underdog to the Cougars (again for a reason).
When March rolls around, the numbers will show that the Michigan game was a better win from a pure rankings standpoint. But just watch and see what the national basketball writers around this country ink about the Cyclones over the next few days. Fred Hoiberg’s team will get much more love for this one. Don’t be shocked if the Cyclones leap into the top 15 after this victory either.
More musings in a huge Cyclone victory…
*** This win will serve as a major confidence builder. The Cyclones now know that they can beat a top 10 team at home. They now know that they can beat a good team in a vicious environment. They now know that even if they get behind, they can come back because they’ve done it in the past. They now know that even if a crucial player or two has to go to the bench due to foul trouble, they can survive (I cannot stress the word survive enough in reference to Wednesday).
*** Matt Thomas grew up in front of our very eyes in this win. Early in that game, the freshman looked exactly like a freshman. Thomas looked scared. Thomas’ eyes were larger than the state of Utah.
His final box score: 5-for-8, 12 points and six rebounds. Sign me up for that every game right now.
"I thought he stepped up with confidence and knocked down a couple big ones for us, but that was their first time in this environment and you’re going to be rattled in that type of situation,” Hoiberg said. I thought (Monte) Morris did a good job of getting Georges the ball where he needed it in the right spot."
*** Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane combined to score 61 of Iowa State’s 90 points in the win. Get used to stats like that.
*** There’s no doubt in my mind that Niang deserves the game ball for this win. Down the stretch when his teammates were on the bench, Niang was the only reliable form of offense on the floor for Iowa State.
"Unbelievable, he was our horse,” Hoiberg said. “He got the ball, whether it was on the block or isolated in the mid-post area. He just made play after play after play, similar to what he did against Michigan. Big time performance by Georges."
The UMKC Kangaroos will visit Ames on Monday evening. UMKC is currently 0-3 with losses to Emporia St. (D-2), Creighton and Nebraska Omaha. Iowa State visited UMKC last year and it wasn’t even close. First-year head coach Kareem Richardson, who was on Louisville’s bench last season, now leads the UMKC program.