Iowa State (10-0) has made it look pretty easy so far in Honolulu, overcoming a sluggish start against George Mason and smashing Akron in the final 3o minutes. It’s been in large part thanks to the big four of Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Melvin Ejim, and DeAndre Kane, dominating their opposition and lighting up the scoreboard.
It won’t be so easy against Boise State (10-2). The depth of the Cyclones will have to step up to match the Bronco’s high-octane offense and 3-point shooting. The last of game of the Diamond Head Classic could live up to the latter part of the tournament’s name.
Dec 23, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Georges Niang (31) drives towards the basket against the Akron Zips during the second half of the NCAA basketball game at Stan Sheriff Center. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports
(14)Iowa State Cyclones vs Boise State Broncos
Stan Sheriff Center | Honolulu, HI
Diamond Head Classic | Championship
Tip-off: Approx. 7:55 PM CT | TV: ESPN2
How Boise State got to the DHC championship game
The Broncos were able to hold off a pesky Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors team in the quarterfinals. Both teams shot relatively at the same rate, but BSU hit 50 percent from 3-point range (9 of 18) and recorded 17 assists on 23 field goals made.
It was an easier task against South Carolina. Boise State blew away the Gamecocks early and won by a dominant 80-54 margin. The Broncos hit nine 3-point field goals again and moved the ball well, taking advantage of USC’s 18 turnovers.
Junior guard Anthony Drmic has been a man on fire in the tournament. He’s had 51 total points and is 5 of 10 from 3-point range. Drmic averages 19.8 points per game with a stunning 47.7 percent field goal average. Assists have generally been team-wide production, but junior guard Derrick Marks recorded seven in the win over Hawai’i.
What to watch for
If there’s any team that can play at Iowa State’s level on offense, it’s Boise State. They only average 12.8 assists per game but that’s dramatically gone up in their trip to Honolulu with 33 in the last two games. They currently fire at 40.4 percent from 3-point range (25th nationally) and have made 95 3-point shots, that’s over a three percent better average and two more 3-pointers that Iowa State has on the season.
Dec 10, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) dribbles the ball against Boise State Broncos guard Jeff Elorriaga (11) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Boise State 70-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Who’s the biggest threat from 3-point range? Without hesitation, it’s senior guard Jeff Elorriaga. He’s made 39 of 66 attempted 3-point shots. He’s only attempted seven more shots inside the arch. When that much of his game is from the perimeter and he’s still hitting on 59 percent, that just means he’s damn good at what he does.
Obviously, the big four with Iowa State will need to bring their game, but they need some other players to step up. Those four can’t defeat Boise State alone like they could with the earlier opponents. Naz Long needs to come into the game and make some three’s. Matt Thomas needs to do some damage from the perimeter as well.
It wouldn’t hurt to see Ejim get similar numbers from the win over the Zips. He still shined compared to all the other great performances; he finished with 21 points on 7 of 9 field goals (3 of 3 from 3-point range), made all four free throws, and added 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, one steal…
He did tie a game-high four turnovers (with Kane), but that can be excused. That being said, the Cyclones can’t be lazy with the ball. The Broncos average 8.5 steals per game (25th nationally).
This is going to be a fun, offensive shootout. Unlike most tournaments, this one will have improved day three performance because everybody had the day off on Christmas Eve.
Both teams will hit in the 80’s and likely break through the 90’s. Iowa State continues to struggle to prevent opponents from having open looks, and that problem will likely continue against Boise State.
However, the Iowa State bigs have the upper hand. For the Cyclones, this game needs to be won at the glass and they have the advantage with Boise State getting just 34.8 total rebounds per game (219th nationally).
Hogue and Ejim should have a field day on the boards. Even if the 3-point shots aren’t being made early (and usually, they don’t), the Cyclones can attack inside like they have for most of the tournament.
Expect Boise State to hang around all game, but Iowa State will get the critical boards it needs to pull of a win and start their best season in school history with 11 straight victories. Oh, and be winners of the Diamond Head Classic.
Merry Christmas, Cyclone fans.
IAST 91, BOST 85 (Odds: IAST -5, O157)