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AMES — Georges Niang’s helping of hyperbole Saturday landed on his red-hot ISU teammate, Abdel Nader.
“He turned into Steph Curry overnight,” said Niang, who scored 27 points while Nader added 24 in No. 13 ISU’s Jameel McKay-less 92-83 win over the last-place Horned Frogs at a sold-out Hilton Coliseum.
That’s deep respect. It’s also a tad bit over the top, but Nader has weaved together the best back-to-back scoring efforts in his career in the Cyclones’ last two games.
The senior from suburban Chicago matched a career high with 26 points in Tuesday’s 94-89 loss at Baylor. Nader then dialed up the number 24 Saturday on 8 of 13 shooting — including 5-of-8 accuracy from 3-point range.
So consider his confidence meter to be red-lining at the right time.
“(It’s) really going right now,” said Nader, whose 3-ball with 7:39 left restored a 10-point lead. “Confidence is everything in this game and when I’m flowing, when I’m going, like I’ve said, I don’t think I can be stopped.”
Nor could ISU (19-8, 7-5), which played without McKay for the third time in the past five games. Why’d the Cyclones’ best rebounder sit? That’s a bit hazy. ISU coach Steve Prohm called it “a coach’s decision.” He also declined to term it a suspension — a situation that McKay found himself in for two games earlier this month because of practice-based issues.
“He was available to play if I wanted to put him in,” Prohm said.
Unlike Saturday, McKay will be needed Monday at No. 10 West Virginia. But will he be available against the Mountaineers?
“No question,” Prohm said.
Whether he actually plays is another matter entirely, of course, but at least his close friend and point guard Monté Morris (11 assists) believes he will.
“He should play Monday,” Morris said.
As for Saturday, the Cyclones simply held serve. They looked to have a chance to break the game open after building a 17-point cushion early in the second half, but TCU unleashed a 12-2 run to pull within seven on the first of several such ill-fated comebacks. The Horned Frogs, despite pulling down an astounding 20 offensive rebounds, could never make it a two possession game, however.
Niang even executed a fast break, one-handed dunk off a slick feed from Matt Thomas.
“It felt the best,” Niang said after being asked if it was the top flush of his career. “I should have flexed my muscles on the way back.”
Speaking of muscles — from the calves to the shoulders — Deonte Burton crafted a spectacular game. The athletic 6-4 junior matched a career high with 23 points and more than doubled another single-game career benchmark with 14 rebounds.
“He was terrific,” Prohm said.
So was Nader — crucially, for the second game in a row.
Until Saturday, his highest scoring efforts in conference play had preceded games in which he scored 10 points or fewer. Drop in 20 one night, it’s eight the next. Or it’s 19 and zero. Or 19 and six.
Look for that long-standing trend to continue sliding the other way, especially if he keeps his confidence and output up in Morgantown.
“He’s gotten better every year,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “He bounces it left and right. That thing’s out of his hands like that; 6-7 and he doesn’t say anything, he just plays so hard. And it’s not old school comments for me, it’s real school. We all as coaches, we respect guys like that. He’s a handful down there. A handful.”
Morris joined Jeff Hornacek and Diante Garrett as the only Cyclones in program history to achieve at least 1,000 career points, 500 career assists and 150 career steals. … Nader is 10 of 17 from the 3-point line in the past two games and 17 of 27 from the field overall. He’s also had a total of two turnovers in that span.