AMES — It’s a message Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg delivers to his players over and over, ad nauseam.
“Two things great teams do, they bounce back from tough losses and they find a way to put big wins behind them and you have to do it right away,” said Hoiberg, whose No. 14 Cyclones apparently need a refresher course after Sunday’s 88-78 struggle of a win over Southern.
ISU easily handled arch-rival Iowa, 90-75, Friday at Iowa City, but didn’t mentally sequester that triumph as the well-traveled and outmatched Jaguars rolled into Ames.
Nothing’s easy in this game, but the Cyclones (8-1) needed yet another reminder that resting on one’s laurels leads to the possibility of getting beat by anyone.
Star forward Georges Niang referenced unwanted odiferous emanations to form an explanation.
“Probably thinking our crap doesn’t stink,” said Niang, who joined recently-reinstated Bryce Dejean-Jones in leading the Cyclones with 18 points. “We were probably out there thinking we were better than we were and they punched us in the mouth. Credit Southern: they did a great job of getting in us and making us play the type of basketball we don’t like to play.”
That’s slow, labored and out of sync.
“Our pace was brutal early on; we weren’t getting it out quick, we weren’t running the lanes,” Hoiberg said.
The Jaguars (2-7), which recently lost by 28 points at Minnesota, led by as many as eight points and maintained that edged until ISU closed out the first half with a 21-6 run.
Adrian Rodgers starred early for Southern, notching 15 of his 19 points before the break. Tre Lynch fueled the Jaguars late, scoring 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
“Then the confidence goes,” Hoiberg said. “(Rodgers) hit some tough ones, too. Give the kind credit, we had a hand in his face on several occasions. And then Lynch comes in there at the end and he gets going, he gets hot. Again, you’ve got to take that away. We weren’t real sharp in our close outs, either. You’ve got to be there on catch. We know they weren’t shooting the ball great but they were capable — and we talked about taking those shots away.”
Hoiberg added that his team showed no hint of a letdown after the Iowa game. The shoot-around, he noted, looked great.
“It just didn’t carry over to the court,” he said. “They were too comfortable early on.”
Could the quick turnaround be to blame?
After all, the Cyclones had less than 44 hours to completely compartmentalize the Iowa victory and tip with the Jaguars.
“I don’t like making excuses for ourselves, but I’ll take it if you’re going to give it to me,” said Niang, who added three rebounds and four assists. “Yeah, we can call it one of those.”
THE COUNTDOWN …
It’s about six days until Mr. Wingspan (a.k.a. rim protector) Jameel McKay can play in his first ISU game in Saturday’s Big 4 Classic matchup with Drake. What can the 6-9 Marquette transfer provide that the Cyclones are currently lacking? “I think he should have a great impact,” Hoiberg said. “I think we need to be a little patient with him because he’s been off for a year and a half but he’s one of those kids that will impact the game with his energy. We won’t have to worry about pace with Jameel. He’s going to run and he’s going to do it every time. He’s going to be back there to protect the rim when we get beat. We won’t have to double the post as much with Jameel out there. I’m excited, I know our whole team’s excited to get him (out there).”