AMES, Ia. — For a while Friday night, Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg was speechless.
How did your 17th-ranked team rally from yet another double-digit deficit before beating 23rd-ranked Iowa 85-82 in front of a sold out crowd at Hilton Coliseum?
“In all honesty, I have no idea how we won that game,” Hoiberg said, scanning the box score. “They crushed us on the boards, they beat us in transition, and I thought those were the two biggest keys that we had to have, to have the upper hand to win.”
The Cyclones improved to 8-0 for the first time since Tim Floyd’s 1996-97 team won its first 10 games because they beat the Hawkeyes by 10 points in the second half, because Georges Niang played big — and because Dustin Hogue and Melvin Ejim played even bigger.
And it came in a game that matched rated Iowa State and Iowa men’s basketball teams for the first <FZ,1,0,54>time since 1987 — and just second time in the 66-game history of the series.
“Great game, great crowd, great everything,” said Niang, who scored a career-best 24 points. “What more could you ask for?”
If you’re Iowa State, you might ask Santa Claus for something other than a hold-your-breath ending after rallying from 10 points down with 1:29 left in the first half.
“That would be nice sometime,” said Ejim, who scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “What we’re doing is showing our toughness.
Hogue’s 12-point, 16-rebound performance was his fourth double-double in eight games.
Naz Long came off the bench to score 13 points before fouling out with 2:44 to play.
And this just in: Iowa State won a game despite an opponent attempting a last-second 3-point shot. The Cyclones lost those games last season — and even last Saturday’s victory against Northern Iowa went into overtime after a banked 3-point shot found its way through the hoop at the end of regulation.
This time, it was Iowa’s Zach McCabe, a 48.5 percent 3-point shooter, providing the drama.
Wide open drama.
“It wasn’t like we drew it up,” Ejim said. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’ when I saw him shooting. I had to run out there and contest it.”
McCabe missed and shortly afterward, the floor was overrun by celebratory fans.
“We decided not to guard him and take our chances,” Hoiberg said, joking.
It worked. And so did an in-bounds play with 18.8 seconds to go — possibly the biggest play of the game.
Iowa State closed within 82-81 when Hoiberg called timeout to map strategy. He went with a play that got Niang going toward the basket.
A reverse layup later, the Cyclones led 83-82.
“It was a play to get me going to the rim,” Niang said. “I gave it to (DeAndre) Kane, he gave it back to me and I drove the baseline.”
Interestingly, Hoiberg now has done something that his mentor has done — started with 8 wins in a row.
“I talk to him a lot,” Hoiberg said. “He asked me if I had any questions about Iowa.”
And before this goes further, Floyd’s Texas-El Paso team was beaten by Iowa 89-53 on Nov. 29.
“I said no,” Hoiberg responded when Floyd asked if he needed assistance. “I said, ‘I watched your game.’
“He was a little hurt by that.”
They’re still close friends.
“I talk to coach Floyd a lot,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a mentor to me. I run a lot of things by him.”
Long after the game, however, Hoiberg was still a little rattled by McCabe’s 3-point miss.
“I expected that thing to go in,” Hoiberg said. “Fans were loud. The arena was shaking a little bit, maybe.
“I’m still shaking a little bit.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball