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Basketball

Niang “thrilled” for chance to back up “Cyclone State” comment

 AMESGeorges Niang got the last word.

 Sort of.

 The Iowa State forward took a jab at Iowa several minutes after last season’s pulse-pounding 85-82 win over the Hawkeyes at Hilton Coliseum. 

 “At the end of the day, we know it’s a Cyclone state,” Niang, who scored 24 points in the triumph, would add as the postgame press conference wound down.

 ISU coach Fred Hoiberg’s response?

 “Nice, Georges,” the man known as "The Mayor" muttered with a slight shake of his head.

 That was 362 days ago.

 Those words — Niang’s, anyway — likely linger in the minds of Iowa’s players, coaches and fans, all of whom would like nothing more than to see him eat them during and after Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

 “I’m expecting the worst, but I love it,” Niang said. “I did it to myself so I can handle all that I dish out.”

 Taunts? 

 Niang will hear them, as expected. 

 A challenge?

 Iowa (8-2) should fully provide it for the No. 14 Cyclones (6-1), who face their first true road test of the season.

 “We’re excited about it,” said Hoiberg, who praised Iowa’s toughness after Tuesday’s win. “It’s a great opportunity to go into a hostile environment for the first time this year and hopefully we’ll handle it well. If we don’t, it could be an ugly one.”

 Niang, despite his Boston upbringing, relishes playing the role of firebrand in a series that divides households and regions of the state.

 He eagerly stokes the flames of a rivalry that slow-burned for several years as neither team sniffed the NCAA Tournament.

 The Cyclones pulled out of their slump quickest and have advanced to the last three tournaments — even reaching the Sweet 16 last season before a foot injury that sidelined Niang became too much adversity to overcome.

 The Hawkeyes made it back to the “Big Dance” last season, but blew a lead to Tennessee and fell in their first game.

 “I don’t even want to start,” Niang said when asked about his third meeting with Iowa (he’s 1-1). “To get back there is just going to be a thrill. I’m real excited to travel with our team down there and just get things rolling. Friday can’t come soon enough.”

 Niang had seven assists in Tuesday’s win.

 Bryce Dejean-Jones — a Los Angeles native and transfer senior via UNLV — scored 22 points and will play in his first and last Cy-Hawk Series game.

 “I can’t wait,” he said.

 Obviously, neither can Niang — or anyone else that has picked a side in the Cy-Hawk fight.

 “I’m just excited to see how we handle this first true road test,” Hoiberg said.

R

Rob Gray

administrator

Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.

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