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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Five thoughts on Iowa State’s season opening victory

AMES — It wasn’t a masterpiece but Iowa State’s 93-82 season opening victory over Oakland (Mich.) was nothing to sneeze at either – offensively at least.

From Georges Niang’s career-high to some clear issues that need cleaned up on defense, here are five takeaways from the victory in front of a sold out Hilton Coliseum along with other notable happenings from night No. 1 of the college basketball season. 

1 – Niang was spectacular 

I’d like to begin with a less obvious topic but just can’t.

While his team came out of the gates sluggish, Georges Niang truly looked like one of the best players in the country with his career-high 30-point, nine rebound and five assist performance. Niang was the first Cyclone to score 30 in a season opener since Curtis Stinson did so back in 2005.

Niang, who scored the 1,000th point of his career, did this against a formidable big man too in Oakland’s Corey Petros, who led the way with 25 for the Golden Grizzlies. 

Offensively, Niang was brilliant. That’s a nice way to start his junior season and All-American campaign. 

How does he get better from here?

“Everybody needs to look himself in the mirror, including me, to work on getting stops down the stretch.”

This leads us to… 

2 – Tighten up the D

This group of Cyclones is going to be able to score with the best of them. Iowa State averaged 83 points per game a season ago and chances are, that number will only increase this year. But judging by the tone in postgame interviews, giving up 82 to Oakland served as an eye-opener for Fred Hoiberg’s squad. 

“In order for us to be a great team we have to be a defensive team,” Dustin Hogue said. “I think we’re not allowed to take any time off and we came out slow in the first half, but the second half we were able to pick it up and stop their scorers.” 

Oakland went 51.8 percent from the floor and dished out 21 assists to its 29 field goals.

There’s no need to panic but there is work here to be done – work that needs to be done before Monday’s game against a good Georgia State team – a team that Hoiberg referred to as having one of the “best” backcourts in all of college basketball.

3 – Reinforcements still to come

Hoiberg primarily played with a rotation of seven Cyclones in the season opener, which of course means absolutely nothing as we attempt to learn how The Mayor will rotate more depth than he’s ever had at Iowa State during the 2014-15 season.   

This is fun, scary (in a good way) and unique scenario to watch play out during the non-conference portion of the schedule. 

To think that this team is missing three of its top eight players right now is exciting, to state the obvious.

A few more notes on the rotation…

*** Sherron Dorsey-Walker saw the floor for 18 minutes. He looked better defensively vs. Oakland than he did in the exhibition but with just two points to show for, I just don’t see how he will get much run when Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader return to the lineup in Kansas City. 

*** Daniel Edozie, who Hoiberg referred to as Iowa State’s best post defender after the game, played 18 minutes as well. One has to think that he will be used as more of an enforcer (fouler) and defensive specialist when Jameel McKay makes his debut on Dec. 20 vs. Drake.

4 – Bryce Dejean-Jones

The surprising stat of the night for me was the UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones recorded the first double-double of his career with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The double-double itself wasn’t a surprise. I feel like those will be fairly typical “BDJ numbers” by the end of the season. I guess I’m just shocked that the slasher has never had a double-double before now. 

Let me tell you something: If Bryce Dejean-Jones rebounds like that on a consistent basis this season, Iowa State just got a lot better. Now obviously he isn’t going to average 11 per game but what made Friday impressive was to the naked eye, BDJ was barely working for the numbers he put up albeit against low-major talent. 

“He’s so athletic and so gifted,” Hoiberg said. “We didn’t run a lot for Bryce tonight. He just found a way to go out and get it on his natural God-given ability.”

He’s Mr. Smooth. I’d like to see Bryce care a little bit more on the defensive end but it was opening night so we’ll cut him a little bit of slack.

5 – Atmosphere was awesome

I’m about to sound like an old man but being that I am 30 and expecting a child in February, I’m officially okay with that these days.

Back when I attended Iowa State from 2003-2007, I would often dream about following a program that had a Kansas type of atmosphere for those non-sexy out-of-conference games that in the past haven’t been very well attended. 

If you’ve ever been to Allen Fieldhouse, you know that it doesn’t matter if the Jayhawks are playing Viterbo or Duke, the place is going to be hopping. Students will line up hours before tip to get the best seat in the house and regardless of the importance of the game, you’re always in for a good time. 

What I saw inside of Hilton Coliseum Friday night was major progress for Iowa State’s basketball program.

On Nov. 14 vs. Oakland, that was a Big 12 atmosphere. That was fun.

MORE JOTTINGS

GEORGIA STATE ROLLS: Iowa State’s opponent on Monday night, Georgia State, defeated Tennessee Temple 115-55 on Friday. Now before you get too worked up, note that Tennessee Temple is probably a weaker opponent than Viterbo, who Iowa State defeated in last Friday’s exhibition. However, the 60-point drubbing is just another reminder that the Panthers are a very quality opponent and that Iowa State will have its work cut out for it on Monday night. Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter led the way for Georgia State with 25 and 24. The Panthers ended the night 13-21 (61.9 percent) from 3-point range.

THE ROOS: Iowa State’s Dec. 9 date with UMKC might have just gotten more difficult. The Kangeroos went into Columbia on Friday night and shocked Missouri, winning by a 69-61 final. The Tigers were picked to finish seventh out of 14 in the SEC’s preseason poll.

THE BIG 12: T’was a quiet night in what is potentially the best league in America. As heavy favorites in virtually every game, the Big 12 went 9-0 on Friday. Oklahoma was the only team in the league that didn’t play.

Some specifics…

I’m not sure if you can call it a “scare,” but West Virginia did get a test from Monmouth. The Mountaineers went on a 21-4 run in the final five minutes of the game to win 64-54. Juwan Staten led the way with 20. 

Freshman Myles Turner scored 15 points in 20 minutes in Texas’ 85-50 rout of NDSU.

Kansas’ diaper dandy, Cliff Alexander, only played 12 minutes for the Jayhawks in a 69-59 win over UCSB. Another KU rookie, Devonte Graham, led the Jayhawks in scoring with 14. Notably, another hyped Kansas freshman by the name of Kelly Oubre only played 4 minutes and didn’t score. 

SECRET SCRIMMAGE: Iowa State pummeled Minnesota in a “secret scrimmage” a few months ago. Minnesota lost to Louisville 81-68 in its season opener.

RASHAD VAUGHN: In a 60-59 victory over Morehead State, former Iowa State prospect Rashad Vaughn led UNLV in scoring with 26.