No. 14 Iowa State has had a bit of an uneven start to its Big 12 season. But Saturday night showed that when Iowa State’s best players bring it, they can still play with anyone in America.
In a high-level contest between two probable NCAA tournament teams, Iowa State defeated Texas 85-75 by pulling away late on a 16-8 run after the Longhorns had brought it back to a one-possession game with six minutes left. Georges Niang and Monte Morris led the way, combining for 48 points. The two closed the game scoring the Cyclones’ final eight points, pushing the lead out to a three-possession game with a minute left.
Jameel McKay also returned to the lineup for Iowa State after a two-game suspension, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking four shots. McKay’s presence was felt in the 22 minutes he played inside, as he came out with a fire and intensity that hadn’t been seen since before he was diagnosed with knee tendinitis late in January. Maybe the two games he sat out will help the Cyclones in the long run.
Iowa State’s defense also did a relatively good job of keeping Isaiah Taylor contained throughout the contest, holding the Longhorns’ chief offensive option to 3 of 14 from the field. He did add eight assists versus only one turnover, but overall, ISU coach Steve Prohm will take this performance from his defense that held Texas to 41 percent shooting from the field overall and forced 11 turnovers.
Given that the Cyclones had lost three out of four coming into this one, it has to feel pretty good to get back on the winning side of the ledger. Following Baylor’s surprising loss to Texas Tech on Saturday night, Iowa State is now tied for fourth in the Big 12 and 18-7 overall with five top-30 KenPom wins.
The sky is not falling in Ames by any means. As long as the stars show up offensively and the defense can continue to play well, the Cyclones have a chance to be right there at the end of the year.