AMES — They bumped, they jostled, they poked and they fouled.
South Carolina played Iowa State exactly as expected Saturday — and turned the bruising blueprint into a largely unexpected 64-60 win at Brooklyn, N.Y.
The now-No. 17 Cyclones shot just 1-for-18 from 3-point range and seemed to tire of the Gamecocks’ ability to dictate tempo and guard intensely in the half-court.
“We did miss some open shots, but again, that pressure, I thought, wore some of our guys down a little bit and affected our legs,” ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Hopefully we corrected some of that in practice (Sunday) and we’ll have another good, sharp one (Monday).”
What must the Cyclones (10-2) improve upon to shake off the tough loss? Just about everything.
Big 12 play kicks off at 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2) against Oklahoma State at Hilton Coliseum, and the 18-game regular season slate will be …
“A monster,” Hoiberg said.
ISU learned from Saturday’s monstrosity, though.
“I felt like that was, I wouldn’t say a good wake-up call, but definitely a wake-up call that we can’t just walk into places thinking we’re just going to roll over teams,” said standout forward Georges Niang, who shot 3-for-13 from the field. “Our preparation’s going to have to be better outside of practice, whether that’s getting in and getting guys to know the plays or just getting in and getting into a rhythm. So we’re definitely going to have to take a step in the right direction with that going forward.”
The Cyclones seemed a step slow and a split-second off Saturday and it showed in the stat lines. ISU shot 26 percent from the field in the second half and dished out just eight assists while losing 13 turnovers.
One bright spot: The play of big man Jameel McKay, who scored a career-high 15 points in just his third game as a Cyclone. McKay added six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots.
“I thought he was the guy that played with a lot of energy,” said Hoiberg, whose team swept the Cowboys (11-2, 1-0) last season. “I thought he did a really good job of keeping is in the game. Obviously his length, not only getting blocked shots, but also affecting shots at the rim is very important when you can have that anchor at the back of your defense. I thought he helped up a little bit too much on a couple mid-pick and roll coverages, but for the most part he was really solid on that end. Then, you can see, a guy like that when you’re struggling to score can get you easy baskets just by running in transition and getting to the rim — and again, not only for himself, but that flattens the floor and brings the wings in, sucks them in, and you can kick out for some open threes in transition.”
Those typically fall, unlike Saturday as South Carolina’s style and tenacity kept ISU off-kilter.
“I definitely felt a little winded myself so that’s all on me,” said Cyclone guard Naz Long, who hit his team’s lone 3 to make the score 63-60 with 47 seconds left. "I feel like I need to get in the gym a little bit more and shoot with the Adidas ball. I didn’t feel as comfortable as I thought I should have with the ball, but that’s not an excuse. A ball’s a ball. South Carolina played great defense. They were into us, forcing us to do things we’re not really used to doing, but it’s a learning experience. Now we’re on to the next one and we’re looking to make a great push in the conference.”
So here comes the monster. Ghosts of Saturday can’t — and likely won’t — linger as the goal of a regular season conference championship enters the crucible stage.
“We’ve just got to look forward,” McKay said. “Get back to playing Cyclone basketball.”