Iowa State basketball: Cyclones on top of Big 12 after surviving Kansas State


Hilton Magic struck again as Iowa State basketball took down a hot Kansas State team on Tuesday night and emerged as top dog in the Big 12.

Another sold out crowd at Hilton Coliseum rose up in the final minutes when the Cyclones needed it most. In a back-and-forth game, Iowa State finally pushed forward when they got defensive stops.

Kansas State struggled to find a good shot with the unbeatable duo of good defense thriving off the roar of the crowd. After Marcus Foster made a layup to take a 69-67 lead with 4:10 to go, the Wildcats missed their next seven shot attempts as Iowa State went on the pivotal 8-0 run before Justin Edwards made a layup with a few ticks left.

The Cyclones had plenty of their own struggles throughout. Kansas State’s defense was exposed, and it was expected because the defensive numbers were a tad skewed because of playing teams like TCU and Texas Tech early in the conference slate. Crazy as it may be, it could have been worse.

Iowa State had 15 assists on 27 field goals made. They would have had more assists and points if they converted layups and short-range jumpers. Players like Monte Morris were making the pass, but the team wasn’t finishing. Morris didn’t have his second assist until around 12 minutes to go in the second half.

Jan 20, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg talks to officials during their game against the Kansas State Wildcats at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Wildcats 77-71. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

On the flip side, the Cyclones’ defense still has problems giving up assists. Kansas State had an astonishing 20 assists on 26 field goals made with just 10 turnovers. That’s impressive for a team that hovers around breaking even in the assist-turnover category. That also continues to point at a problem for a team that doesn’t have much of them.

Other than that, Iowa State did a fairly good job of winning a game they had to. The Wildcats are a young team but are improving as seen in their four-game winning streak. Not only was the crowd there to keep K-State from getting a fifth straight win, but the bench showed up as well.

Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader had 26 of the team’s 77 points, shot 9-of-15 from the field, and had 13 of the team’s 36 rebounds combined. McKay even impressed from the free throw line going 7-for-9 to boost Iowa State to its average on the season. They also had the team’s only four blocks — McKay had three, which is around his average as well.

That’s not a knock on any of the starters, who all had their good moments throughout the night. The beauty of Iowa State’s depth is that you may not have that one obvious player of the game. It was a clear team effort to get the win, and Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t want to have it any different. One could argue McKay’s dominance in the frontcourt of an undersized Kansas State team and finally breaking his personal free throw struggles. Another could point to Georges Niang making both clutch 3-point attempts and finishing with a statline of 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Plenty of calls were missed and/or botched in a horribly officiated game.

With the win, Iowa State has finally climbed back to the top of the Big 12. It’s the first time they started league play at 4-1 under Hoiberg and the first time since the new millennium began. Now it’s time to see what they can do in the driver’s seat. Next up is at Texas Tech this Saturday, which is really easy to overlook with Texas looming on Monday. Tip-off is at 3:00 PM Central time and it will be shown on ESPNU WatchESPN.

Other notes

  • Iowa State has won 17 straight at Hilton Coliseum and remain undefeated there this season. They are now 56-4 in their last four seasons when they’re surrounded with Hilton Magic.
  • Monte Morris now has 232 career assists and is already 19th among Iowa State assist leaders. I’d also like to remind you that he’s a sophomore.
  • Jameel McKay tied his career highs with 15 points and 7 rebounds. This was his seventh consecutive game with two or more blocks.
  • Plenty of calls were missed and/or botched in a horribly officiated game. If refs were held more accountable, they’d be suspended for at least a game — it was the worst officiated game I’ve seen that involved the Cyclones all year. Let’s just review some:
    • Morris got notched for a turnover when he didn’t have complete possession of the ball.
    • Kansas State got a timeout when they clearly didn’t have possession of the ball.
    • A couple easy to see pushoffs were ignored.
    • Niang was fouled on the horrible lob by the Wildcats late in the game and it wasn’t called.
    • There was way too much confusion on a few substitutions when foul shots were being made.

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