AMES — Back track? Soften tone? Hold back?
That ain’t Georges Niang’s style.
“For all the Hawkeyes that didn’t get the message, it’s a Cyclone State,” the standout senior said after scoring 16 points in the No. 4 Cyclones’ third-largest second-half comeback ever. I’m extremely happy to say that.”
The All-American’s flair for bold self-expression burst with bravado after Thursday’s jaw-dropping 83-82 comeback win over Iowa before a completely bananas sellout crowd of 14,384 at Hilton Coliseum.
It’s Niang being Niang. Love him, hate him, he’s one of a kind. And if you’re a Cyclone fan you obviously adore him.
So, Georges, how’d you get that swollen upper right lip?
“I don’t know who that was,” he said slyly. “I’m guessing it was (Adam) Woodbury, but it’s all good.”
The honest answers didn’t stop. The all-in-good-fun jabs continued.
When was it clear a full comeback was possible, Georges?
“I think I looked at the scoreboard and it was like 69-60 with (about) 10 minutes left,” Niang said. “You could just look in all their faces. They were telling each other the wrong plays and then this, that and the other. They didn’t look (like) what they looked like in the first half. In the first half, they looked like they were confident, really running their stuff. In the second half, they just didn’t have that confidence or swagger about them.”
He’s serious there, of course. And it seems a fair assessment. Iowa led by 20 points with 16:50 left. ISU had whittled the deficit to 69-60 just seven minutes later.
I just really think we were pressuring them and to be honest when we started coming back they just didn’t have the same look in their eyes,” Niang said. “Even when they were getting baskets they weren’t celebrating as much. They just looked like they were getting more nervous and nervous and we kept taking better shots and getting more confident and more confident. At the end of it, they just gave us the game when you think about it.”
Also serious. Also fair.
The Hawkeyes blew an eight points lead in the final 2:36. They turned the ball over three times in the final 65 seconds. ISU’s increasingly successful closer Monté Morris then floated in what proved to be the game winner with nine seconds left.
Game. Set. Laughs — for Niang, anyway.
“Thanks for playing,” he said with a smile when asked to offer a “message” for Iowa fans.
Niang did soften his tone at least once, though, conceding how tough an out the Hawkeyes (7-3) are.
“Hopefully we’re done playing them,” he said. “They’re a great team. They just couldn’t close the game out and we just kept hanging in there and making stuff happen.”
Stuff as in “magic?” Of course. With that as your back up, there’s no need to back track on any bold talk.
Although Niang — who improved to 3-1 in the rivalry — admitted to some worries while the Hawkeyes were running away with things much of the game.
“When you go down 20 you really wish you could bite your tongue,” Niang said of past jests and boasts. “I said I’ve never bit off more than I could chew and at some point in the game I was thinking, ‘Man these dudes really came to play,’ but being at Hilton, the magic really is real. We never feel like we’re down and out.”
Nope. Not even with a swollen right lip that, for a time, will mar Niang’s face — a visage he’s been known to refer to his “money-maker.”
“They ruined it, but I ruined their evening, so it’s all good," he said. "We’re even.”