AMES — Jameel McKay approached his first career start as an Iowa State Cyclone with his trademark vigor.
He hit the floor running. He coiled and sprang into action. He swatted shots with violent, but not reckless abandon.
“The three blocks,” McKay said in pointing with pride toward one aspect of his commanding 17-point, eight-rebound performance in No. 11 Iowa State’s 75-38 drubbing of Texas Tech Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. “Because I always preach to the guards to send them my way and I always have their backs. That comes with defense, as well.”
Everything flowed from that sometimes troublesome component of the game for the Cyclones (17-5, 7-3), who avenged a dispiriting 78-73 setback to the Red Raiders (12-12, 2-9) two weeks ago at Lubbock.
Tech couldn’t miss that day, drilling 7 of 11 3-point attempts while building a 19-point first-half lead. The Red Raiders finished 11 of 24 from long-range in Lubbock — but crash landed Saturday via a 4-for-20 effort from beyond the arc.
“It was one of those days,” Tech coach Tubby Smith said.
Call Saturday a role reversal, the law of averages, or simply the restoration of order in a topsy-turvy Big 12 race.
Either way, ISU — now alone in second place in the league standings — shined from start to finish on a defensive end that’s often served as a slippery slope toward "learning experiences."
“They weren’t as comfortable,” Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg said of a Tech team that scored the fewest points ISU allowed in a game since a 54-38 victory over Oklahoma State on Jan. 9, 1967. “They were so comfortable down there, especially early in the game with getting uncontested shots. Some of those came off of offensive rebounds by their guards and some we just didn’t close out with enough urgency. And that has been a big emphasis in practice the last few days. We had one small stretch there where (Tech’s Toddrick) Gotcher hit three of them, but after that I thought we got back to doing exactly what we wanted to in this game and that was running them off the 3-point line, sending them into guys like Jameel and Dustin (Hogue), and I thought they responded great.”
McKay started for Bryce Dejean-Jones, who, according to Hoiberg, arrived late for today’s pregame activities.
Both adjusted exceedingly well, with McKay scoring dunks on three of his seven field goals and Dejean-Jones doling out five assists to one turnover. McKay went 7-for-7 from the field. Dejean-Jones went 2-for-2.
“It’s crazy how things work in this world,” said point guard Monté Morris, who served up six assists to zero turnovers. “Everything happens for a reason. Whatever coach’s decision is, we’re going to ride with it and Jameel’s going to continue to play at a high level and so is Bryce.”
It’s hard to argue with Saturday’s results. McKay fueled a defense-driven 7-2 run before the first media timeout. Dejean-Jones entered immediately after the break and dished to Hogue for a 3-pointer and to McKay for a breakaway dunk.
The score: 12-2. The game: essentially over — even before a 24-2 second-half bulldozing helped create ISU’s third-largest margin of victory ever in a conference game.
The Cyclones finally found their lead foot for that oft-mentioned gas pedal and led by as many as 43 points before the crowd pleasers — a.k.a. deep reserves Georgios Tsalmpouris (who hit a nifty hookshot), Kourtlin Jackson and Daniel Stensland — hit the court to the delight of the 14,384 fans in attendance.
“Having lost a big one down there, we took this personal,” said ISU’s Naz Long, who scored 15 points and drilled three of his team’s eight 3-pointers. “We were taking a lot of hits defensively, so we took it upon ourselves to keep our man in front of us and run guys off the 3-point line. I feel like we did a good job of that.”
McKay and Dejean-Jones deftly handle their role changes just as well. But will the lineup alteration stick? Stay tuned.
“We’ll see,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve got a lot of film to watch today, then we’ll make that determination tomorrow.”
NIANG’S "GOOD TO GO": Forward Georges Niang retreated to the locker room briefly during Saturday’s game and also churned away on a stationary bike. Should Cyclone fans be concerned? "Everything’s good, I’m feeling good, just getting back to 100 percent," said Niang, who scored seven points on 3 of 5 shooting. "We’ve got great trainers around here." Niang said his Achilles tendon has been bothering him a bit, but … "I’m all good to go."