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Georges Niang winced. Limping noticeably, he played on. But he winced again — than continued limping before finally sitting down with five fouls.
One of those days.
A painful Saturday for Iowa State’s star ended with him hobbling and his team falling, 72-62, to No. 5 Texas A&M in a Big 12/SEC Challenge game at sold-out Reed Arena in College Station.
The Aggies (18-3) outscored the Cyclones 16-4 down the stretch to avoid their second loss in a row. No. 14 ISU (16-5) saw a four-game win streak snapped — and now must wait to see how Niang’s leg injury responds in advance of Tuesday’s matchup with No. 9 West Virginia at Hilton Coliseum.
Niang — who told the Ames Tribune after the game "he’s fine" — led the Cyclones with 15 points. Jameel McKay hoarded 14 rebounds, with nine coming in the second half. Deonte Burton scored 11 points off the bench, including three dunks and a magnificent no-look dish to McKay for a slam.
Gutsy performance. Just not good enough. ISU made two of its final 10 field goal attempts and drained just 4-of-12 free throw tries as coach Steve Prohm faced and fell to his mentor, Billy Kennedy, for the first time.
“They just made more plays late in the game,” ISU’s Matt Thomas said on the Cyclone Radio Network. “That’s why they won the game.”
The Aggies — led by Danuel House’s 20 points and numerous dunks — outscored the Cyclones 21-4 in points off turnovers.
Game … set … back to the Big 12, where ISU remains hot despite Saturday’s setback.
A&M dictated the pace throughout and worked hard to prevent Monté Morris from facilitating on offense. The Cyclones fumbled away nine of their 16 turnovers before the break, which led to nine A&M points. The Aggies, meanwhile, lost five turnovers in the first half, but ISU could convert none into points.
A&M faced its own early struggles. They Aggies started 0-for-9 from 3-point range and hit just one of its next five, which helped ISU hang around, then strike.
The Cyclones closed the first half on a 6-0 run to tie the score, 30-30.
“We were in a great spot,” Prohm said on the postgame show.
Morris dropped in a pair of floaters to spark the surge — and Burton added a booming exclamation point with a putback dunk at the buzzer. Burton matched Matt Thomas with six points to lead ISU before the break. Hallice Cooke added a top-of-the-key 3-pointer for the Cyclones, who shot 46.4 percent to A&M’s 37 percent in the first half.
The second half started like the first half ended. ISU pushed its run to 10-0 on a Niang basket, but the Aggies would respond, hitting three 3-pointers in a two-minute span to lead, 48-44, with 12:09 left.
Cue Burton, who turned a steal into a one-handed flush. He missed the ensuing free throw, but he’d started a 7-0 run. Niang, meanwhile, battled foul trouble throughout the second half and went ahead again, 54-53, in a Tyler Davis layup with 7:36 left.
ISU tried to come back yet again — even leading 58-56 on Morris’s steal and layup with 4:32 left — but that’s when the Aggies began their game-closing 16-4 spurt.
“I wish I could have the last three minutes back just to get our guys in better situations,” Prohm said. “But I thought we did compete. I thought we played hard."
The Cyclones will try to regroup Tuesday at home against No. 9 West Virginia, which was blown out Saturday at unranked Florida.
“They’re going to press all game we’ve just got to take care of the ball and get good shots,” said Thomas, who drilled three 3-pointers. “I think if we do that we’ll be in a good spot to win.”