Iowa State saw its run in the NCAA tournament come to end on Friday night, losing to Connecticut 81-76 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. It was a game that the Cyclones had no business being in late, but it was the will of Dustin Hogue that gave the team a chance to win.
When no other shots were going in, Hogue was always there for the answer. He made 15-of-19 field goals from the field, finishing with a season-high 34 points, six rebounds, and made four of the team’s six free throws.
Hogue, a native New Yorker from Yonkers, lived just a half hour away from Madison Square Garden. It was the first time he’d ever played under the bright lights at one of the best arenas in the nation, and in front of a massive number of friends and family that made the short trip.
For a guy that had plenty of pressure on him, Hogue ignited on the biggest stage. Iowa State was down early and stayed down throughout the majority of the game, but anytime Connecticut was threatening to turn the game into a rout, Hogue was there for an answer.
Anytime you saw a Cyclone attack the basket, grab the rebound, or make the extra effort on both sides of the court, it was number 22. Hogue played like a man possessed, and we haven’t seen anybody in the zone like that since Melvin Ejim‘s 48-point performance against TCU.
Unfortuantely, Ejim and the rest of the team just couldn’t match Hogue’s intensity for 40 minutes. DeAndre Kane had a stellar night statistically — 16 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists are usually enough to lead the team and reel in a victory. But it was the stretches that Kane didn’t look strong at all. He missed 12 of his 18 attempts, and most importantly, seven of his nine free-throw attempts didn’t go through the net.
Kane knew it, too. Seeing him wrap his arms around his head after missing two free throws late in the game said it all. Finally, the realization hit all the players and fans that Iowa State wouldn’t be experiencing March Madness any longer.
Ejim had an even worse day offensively. Despite his eight boards, the Big 12 player of the year made just 3-of-13 from the field and didn’t even get to the free throw line. In total, the seniors that led Iowa State so many victories in the previous 35 games combined for a whopping 9-of-31 from the field, an ice-cold rate of 29 percent.
Based on matchups statistically, the game held true. Iowa State was able to win the rebounding battle, but Connecticut generally holds team to horrendous shooting percentages, and they were able to shut down everyone that wasn’t named Dustin Hogue. Also, another stat that we’ve followed all year long: assists to field goals made. The Cyclones had just 14 assists on 32 field goals made, one of the widest margins in any game all season long.
As much as Iowa State can point out that Georges Niang cost them a tournament run, and it certainly had a big impact on a team that had zero depth in the frontcourt, they still had all the opportunity to win tonight. In the end, the team lacked Hogue’s inspiration until it was too late.
Finally, a hole was dug too deep for the “Cardiac Clones” to rebound from a double-digit deficit.
Iowa State finishes the season 28-8 after falling in the Sweet 16. Both Kane and Ejim will likely be having nightmares about their performance at MSG, and always wonder what could have been if a few more shots were made on the field. But they don’t have to hang their head too much, the Cyclones wouldn’t have even been in this position without them.
And seeing Hogue unleash should excite every Cyclone fan for the upcoming season.