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Basketball

Cyclone History Theater: Niang wins it

Every so often I like to rip off Bill Simmons and the retro-diary concept that he used to do (maybe still does) while watching a relevant Iowa State game of yesteryear. It’s kind of a combo of bad jokes, quasi-analysis of basketball, bad jokes, a look back in time, and bad jokes. I waffled back and forth on which Iowa State vs. Iowa classic I should use for the big Cy-Hawk week that is upon us but ultimately landed on the not-so-long-ago game from 2013. That was a fun game with some notable happenings.

This game was tense, but especially for me, as I did what any First Team All-American husband and father would do with a wife that is eight months pregnant and dilated to a four; I left her at home where she wouldn’t be bothered by Iowa fans and I went to the game. But never worry, I did have my phone in hand at all times in the event that labor kicked in. You know, so she could update me of the baby’s progress while I watched the game.

Settle in for another round of Cyclone History Theater.

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Mike Couzens (who?) and Reid Gettys—Phi Slamma Jamma!—welcome us to a “SOLD OUT HILTON COLISEUM!” The Cyclones (No. 17) and Hawkeyes (No. 23) are both ranked for the first time since the doozey of a game from 1987 when Iowa State was No. 20 in the land and Iowa, No. 7. Some guy with the last name of Rhodes – or was it Rhoads, Rodes, Roads, Rhoades…? – torched Iowa for an ISU record that still stands of 54 points. ISU prevailed in overtime in a raucous environment with some clock controversy, coaches scuffling on the court after the game and Jesse Jackson in the front row to witness it all and congratulate Rhodes on his performance.

The fine folks of ESPNU have transitioned to an opening highlight montage and treated us with one of the best examples of a classic Aaron White flop on offense. You know, the one where he absorbs minimal contact and then chooses to not land on his feet to draw the call. It works all too often.

First half.

The Hawkeyes win the opening tip only to be stonewalled and shutout but the tough and gritty Cyclone defense…

Anyway, first trip down the floor and surprise, surprise the Cyclones get Georges Niang the ball rolling to the block where he banks in a right handed hook shoot. He makes it look really easy all the time but making a hook shot is so damn hard. For me, my hook shot looks worse than trying to hit a golf ball left handed.

19:19 – On the next Iowa possession, Mike Gesell penetrates and gets a foul called. He calmly steps up and makes both free throws. He’s really solid from the stripe and is an 80 percent free throw shooter so far in his career. Rarely does he miss in these situations.

18:42 – DeAndre Kane posts up Gesell at the other end in a mismatch similar to me posting up my four year old daughter (though that daughter’s scrappiness may surpass Gesell’s) and draws a foul. He makes one and the Cyclones lead 3-2.

14:37 – The game is a bit frenetic, loose, and out of control. This marks the first TV timeout and Iowa leads 13-9. In the first possession after the timeout Iowa plays zone (which will be a trend throughout after timeouts) and ISU chucks a three that misses and leads to a transition bucket for Gabe Olaseni (another trend that will continue throughout the rest of the game.)

12:46 – Iowa State is down 17-13 when Kane leaks out on a fast break and draws a foul. He goes to the line to shoot the seventh and eighth free throws already for ISU. All have been taken by him and Niang.

12:04 – Marble drills his second 3-pointer of the game and Iowa State responds with a turnover from Monte Morris. I’m not sure about this freshman point guard. He had a careless turnover late against BYU and now he’s faltering early in this matchup. Not sure he’ll be able to contribute much this season or if he’ll ever learn to take care of the ball.

The scroll at the bottom keeps reminding me that Alabama has extended Nick Saban’s contract, per Kirk Herbstreit. So congrats to coach Saban or your Brinks truck full of cash.

Right after the under 12 minute TV timeout Iowa goes zone once again only to have Naz Long drill a 3-pointer to pull within 22-17.

The next dead ball gives a promo for the Oklahoma State game the next day. The Cowboys are the No. 7 team in the country and rolling early on. They look unstoppable and Gettys is absolutely right in saying that Marcus Smart has not and will not hurt his draft stock by coming back for this season.

For the first time of the night, my phone vibrates giving me a scare that I’ll have to rush out but my wife is only checking in to see how nice Fred looks in person. Dreamy as usual.

9:35 – Naz Long draws a foul on a 3-pointer and proceeds to miss all three free throws. Dustin Hogue grabs the offensive rebound, immediately kicks to Long on the wing and he does the only thing you do as a shooter without a conscious and he fires up another 3-pointer. He surprisingly misses only for Ejim to come up with the rebound and draw a foul. He makes both and ISU trails 24-19.

9:15 – Aaron White draws a foul on Kane, his second, and Kane gets sent to the bench. On the ensuing play Melsahn Basabe misses only for Hogue to come up with the ball and get fouled. Hogue proceeds to miss the front end of the one-and-one.

The following 30 seconds is the epitome of crazy-ball. McCabe misses a 3-pointer, the ball bounces around like it’s a football only to find its way to White wide open by the hoop so that he can promptly blow the layup. More crazy-ball happens as the ball bounces around and finally into Niang’s hands who sprints with it down court (while dribbling, duh) only to take an out of control shot that Iowa gathers and pushes up court. Gesell leaves it to a trailing McCabe who shoots another three and misses. Finally, Ejim comes up with it and slows it down only to later turn it over and have Niang commit a foul.

8:10 – Aaron White makes a three. This isn’t good. Iowa up 27-19.

7:40 – McCabe is drawing from Naz Long’s bravado and continuing to shoot threes like Chris Kignsbury, just at a much lower success rate than either of those guys. This one leads to an Ejim fast break and bucket. Iowa leads 29-23.

ESPNU cuts to highlights from the aforementioned 1987 game. The highlights of Lafester Rhodes are cool and everything but my favorite is Johnny Orr drawing up plays….with chalk….on the court. Literally, on the court. What if you go to an away game and this is your only method for illustrating plays and the court is painted white on the sideline out of bounds?

5:08 – Aaron White is doing serious damage. First he posts up Matt Thomas and does the patented dribble catch before using his palm to take a couple of dribbles and drop stepping to one of the most unorthodox and uncoordinated shots I’ve ever seen from a college basketball player. He’s basically unorthodox like Niang but with a whole lot of dork mixed into his game. He’s still good though, and giving the Cyclones serious fits.

ESPNU now cuts to the promo for the Duke game tomorrow. The Blue-Devils are No. 8 in the country and led by freshman stud Jabari Parker. He should lead them deep into the NCAA Tournament.

3:02 – Niang posts and gets an “and one” and makes the free throw to cut the Iowa lead to 35-33. He probably would’ve missed the free throw if he could hear Reid talking about his use of his “wide rear-end”. That would be distracting, no?

Text from the wife comes through, she thinks she’s going into labor….oh God, oh God….

Another text comes through, she’s kidding. My heart does not need this.

2:26 – Ejim has Woodbury isolated on the wing and attempts to dribble past him. Woodbury plays solid defense and gets the steal. That’s probably the low point of Melvin Ejim’s basketball life.

1:02 – After another “and one” for Niang, Matt Thomas picks the pocket of Devyn Marble and gets the transition layup. Iowa’s lead is now 43-38.

0:02 – On Iowa’s final position, the Cyclone defense totally whiffs on a switch and Aaron White is wide open for a layup. At the half, Iowa leads 45-38.

Halftime – After a whole bunch of talk in studio about the Heisman trophy ceremony they kick it to Reid and Mark. Reid’s hair looks immaculate even with the headset on. If Hollywood Higgins were doing this game this would create some serious drama with all of the hair envy.

Here comes an Iowa State University commercial…any reason why they’re always doing the loud whisper with the “choose your adventure” line? I’m not sure how I feel about that.

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Second half.

18:40 – After an Ejim bucket and missed free throw, Adam Woodbury misses a layup only to gather it and make his second attempt. Reid implores Woodbury to dunk the ball and rip the rim from the backboard. I have to assume Woodbury’s response if he heard that would be, “but I gotta get my steps right!”

17:43 – Ejim sinks a three but Iowa responds with a Marble drive and a Marble floater, lead back to 51-46 for Iowa. Keeping ISU at arm’s length is another theme of the night.

16:53 – Kane inbounding the ball under the hoop against the Iowa zone. And, there it is. He throws it off Woodbury’s back, gets the ball and scores all while drawing a foul on Woodbury…ouch. He makes the free throw to cut the lead to 51-49. Woodbury goes to the bench with his third foul and he has that look on his face of, “crap, it happened again.”

Of course, Iowa runs a lob to White for the dunk and Iowa once again answers.

11:20 – Naz buries a three only for White to respond with an 18 footer. At the other end Long turns it over and we go to a TV timeout with Iowa leading 62-58.

10:05 – Niang, after just scoring, now attacks and spins to his left and fires up a left hand hook shot that banks in to tie the game at 62. Seriously, who does that?

At the other end, Hogue draws a charge on McCabe who was seemingly never on the right side of a charge/block call in his collegiate career. At least it seems that way.

9:37 – After a Niang missed free throw, Dustin Hogue corrals the rebound, gets the bucket, and draws the foul. He then stares into the camera and violently pounds his chest in a clip that we’ve seen one hundred or so times since. He makes the free throw and ISU has a 65-62 lead.

After an Iowa bucket Morris cashes in on a 3-pointer for the 68-64 lead and this is the point where I think the script has been flipped and Iowa State will pull away.

8:08 – Gesell answered with his on 3-pointer and now Marble gets to the line and makes two free throws and Iowa has the lead, 69-68. I was saying…

5:55 – After a lot more crazy-ball, missed free throws, skirmishes and Adam Woodbury just falling out of bounds holding the ball, we’re all tied up at 73. Just in time for Kane to have one of his many unproductive drives that result in a miss and no foul or a turnover.

4:15 – ISU’s defense had Iowa reeling and Uthoff trapped on the baseline but Iowa used a timeout and drew up in an inbounds play that resulted in a lob to White at the rim. 79-75, Iowa lead.

2:55 – Kane with another drive that doesn’t end well and Long fouls Gesell at the other end and is out of the game with his fifth. Reid is really talking up Gesell’s outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio that is nearing 5:1. I mean, a guard playing 30+ minutes per game will likely never average anything over 4:1. Gesell is really, really solid at the free throw line where he’s now shooting a one-and-one…oh, he misses the front end!

2:30 – Niang drives and draws a double team leaving Ejim open for the layup, ISU now trails 79-77. I think we’re in business.

But, once again Iowa answers on a Marble floater in the lane after curling off his screen and the lead is now 81-77.

Niang follows that up by drawing a foul only to miss both free throws. Uh-oh. This is serious trouble.

1:29 – Marble forces a shot late on the shot clock that misses but Woodbury rebounds and puts up a tough shot that nearly drops while being fouled. He makes the first and misses the second and Iowa leads 82-77.

At the other end, Woodbury pressures Niang 23 feet from the hoop and gets called for his fifth foul. The students do their traditional heckling of the fouled out player. Niang makes the first then Woodbury does the fake sit to dupe the crowd. This greatly impressed Kyle Meyer, who was now sitting next to Woodbury and he does a weird pointing gesture at everyone. Niang makes the second and the game is an 82-79 lead for Iowa.

0:43 – Uthoff drives late in the shot clock and misses. White mostly grabs the rebound only to have it knocked loose by Kane. Kane dribbles up the court only to bounce it off Marble’s foot and the ball rolls cross court to Monte Morris. He attacks only to lose the ball on the way up with Olaseni protecting the rim and Ejim grabs it and goes up for the layup. Gesell whacks him pretty good and the ball hangs on the rim for what seems like an eternity. It ultimately rolls of and Ejim goes to the free throw line for two shots.

All I can think at this juncture is, “that was the chance to pull even and the ball just hung there.” Ejim makes both and Iowa leads 82-81.

0:36 – McCabe gets the inbound pass and quickly gets rid of it only to get it right back. That is two times too many for him to touch the ball in this situation. Marble gets it back and gets a foul near half court while trapped by Ejim and Kane. He may have been bailed out a bit but the call is pretty standard in that scenario. Marble steps to the line and misses the front end and the Cyclones have their chance.

0:25 – Right as DeAndre Kane starts to drive Fred Hoiberg calls a timeout. It would’ve been dicey but Kane may have drawn a foul or he may not have as had been the case most often on this night next to just straight up turning it over.

Text from wife….just kidding, she’s not that mean and she knows I can’t take that.

0:18 – Niang gets isolated with Uthoff on the right wing where he pulls off the slow motion tight rope walk to the reverse side of the rim for a layup. White was oh so close to blocking that shot had he not committed to the near side of the rim. ISU leads 83-82.

0:13 – Gesell blows by Morris and draws the foul. Once again, Gettys is praising his free throw shooting. He winds up and launches the first; it rattles out. The faces on the Iowa bench are full of concern. He misses the second and from my memory the roar from the crowd there was as loud as I can remember in my years of traveling to Hilton, behind the Naz Long tying 3-pointer against Oklahoma State later in the year.

Hogue grabs the rebound and makes both to get the 85-82 lead.

On Iowa’s last possession, the Iowa State defense completely whiffs on communication and fails to switch as McCabe gets a wide freaking open look from the wing for the tie. He misses and the ball bounces around with a couple of follow-up attempts from Iowa inside the arc while some players and Fran frantically try to call timeout. In actuality, it probably should have been granted but it was a chaotic situation for the officials. I can understand how they missed it but I can also understand why the Iowa staff was upset.

After a smattering of students slowly congregate on the court, in some form of a court storming the crowd is controlled with the playing of “Sweet Caroline” while Reid interviews Fred Hoiberg. He admits he wanted to foul on that last Iowa possession, a tough strategy to execute when there is so much time left on the clock. Fred speaks glowingly of the fans and how he’s so happy for them and he’s excited to head to Hawaii, and who wouldn’t be?

He heads to the locker room and disappears into the crowd on the court on his path. Good win, Fred.

P.S. My wife did not have a baby without me, instead, our third girl came about 14 hours after the conclusion of the game. Her first birthday is Sunday and I have just the idea for the perfect early present…

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