Observations: Iowa State’s Georges Niang is hero of win vs. Iowa

Georges Niang willed Iowa State to victory in the second half against Iowa on Thursday.

The Cyclones are a different team when No. 31 is initiating things at the offensive end of the floor and Niang’s ability to facilitate was a major difference in Iowa State’s 83-82 comeback victory over its arch-rival on Thursday night at Hilton Coliseum.

The skilled forward got into the teeth of the defense, found Jameel McKay for lobs at the rim, and did yeoman’s work defensively along with Matt Thomas in spurts on Jarrod Uthoff — who went off for 30 first-half points and only had one made field goal in the second twenty minutes.

Monte Morris is one of the best point guards in college basketball, but for the Cyclones to be at their apex Niang needs to be the man at the point of attack. Iowa State’s offense was stagnant in the first half last night and one of the main reasons why that changed late in the game was because Niang was handling the ball more.

He finished with 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists all while helping erase a 20-point second half deficit in the victory.

Iowa State is 8-0 and still undefeated in Steve Prohm’s first season in Ames.

Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins is the least appreciated guard in America

People from the periphery will highlight Buddy Hield and Ryan Spangler when they’re first asked about the Sooners’ program.

But those who really know Oklahoma will immediately point out Isaiah Cousins’ overall value because of how many ways he’s able to impact the game.

The Mount Vernon native in a lot of ways is what college basketball used to be about: a player who started out its career with a minimal role and gradually evolved into a really good all-around piece when he became a junior or senior.

The 6-foot-4 guard only averaged 2.7 minutes as a freshman, but is now averaging 14.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from 3-point range — both career-highs.

Cousins may not have a lot of sizzle in his game, but you better believe there’s plenty of steak.

This is one of the sport’s hidden gems.

The Sooners are currently 6-0 overall and next host Oral Roberts on Sunday in Norman.

Cincinnati has played the last two games like it was Stallone in “Rocky III”

The holiday season is a big time for movies and with the release of “Creed” right before Thanksgiving it’s only natural to reference Rocky when describing a certain team in college basketball.

The Bearcats’ program under Mick Cronin has been built on the same attributes that made Rocky a likeable character in the first two movies of the series: hard work, toughness, and determination.

But over the past two games, Cincinnati has displayed some of the same attributes that allowed Stallone’s character to become vulnerable in the first hour or so of Rocky III.

The Bearcats have become comfortable. They’ve become content. They’ve gotten away from what’s made them who they are.

Cincinnati has given up an average of 72.0 points over its last two games and it allowed 50 points in the second half in a two-point loss to Butler on Dec. 2 in a game that it should have won by double-figures.

Many people including myself praised the offensive capabilities and potential of this team early in the year because it had the ability to score the ball with more ease than possibly any other team that Cronin has had since he’s been the head coach of his alma mater.

But that doesn’t mean this team was allowed to stop guarding the way it’s guarded the past five years.

It also doesn’t mean that this team was allowed to miss 50-50 balls the way it did down the stretch against Butler.

The Bearcats are straddling a fence: they’re either to get back to who they were or they’re going to get taught a major lesson on Saturday when they travel to the Cintas Center to take undefeated Xavier — their biggest rival — in the annual Crosstown Shootout.

Burgess Meredith (Mickey) told Rocky in Rocky III prior to his first fight with Clubber Lang that Lang “wasn’t just another fighter. He was a wrecking machine.”

That’s what the Musketeers are right now.

Xavier has been arguably the most impressive team in college basketball so far this season and has won its first nine games by an average of 19.2 points.

That streak will extend to 10 unless Cincinnati gets back to who it’s been.

If they don’t they won’t have a chance on Saturday — none.

Georges Niang (USATSI)
Iowa State’s Georges Niang had 16 points vs. Iowa on Thursday. (USATSI)

This Just In

Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) is now doing on-court drills in practice, Danny Manning told CBS Sports. There’s still no set date for his return. Miller-McIntyre has yet to play in a game this season.

Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans (ankle) is probable for Saturday’s game at Xavier, Mick Cronin told CBS Sports on Friday morning. Evans suffered the injury in Sunday’s game against Morgan State.

This and That

The light appears to be going on for Arizona freshman Allonzo Trier. The 6-4 guard is averaging 18.0 points over his last three games and is 13-of-16 from the foul line during that span. Trier still has a ways to go defensively, but his presence on the floor gives the Wildcats a third scorer to go alongside Gabe York and Ryan Anderson.

One of the main reasons for South Carolina’s 8-0 start? Experience. Each of the Gamecocks’ top-five scorers are either in their junior or senior season — that goes a long way when you’re a program that’s trying to have a breakthrough year. Frank Martin’s team hasn’t beaten a squad yet that’s a lock to reach the NCAA Tournament, but winning the games you’re supposed to win is the first step in eventually locking up a bid to the field of 68.

Maryland’s Melo Trimble has gotten to the free throw line 54 times in the Terps’ first nine games. It’s virtually impossible to keep this guy away from the rim when he turns the corner at the top of the key and gets downhill. Trimble is averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 assists for Mark Turgeon’s team, who is 8-1 overall.

NC State sophomore Caleb Martin has quietly made a massive jump from his freshman to sophomore season. The 6-7 forward is averaging 16.8 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 43.7 percent from the floor and 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Last season Martin averaged 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 35.6 percent on two-point field goals and 30.5 percent from deep. The Wolfpack are currently 5-3 overall and are next at South Florida on Sunday.

The second half of the Big Ten looks significantly more vulnerable than it’s been. The bottom seven teams in this league currently have a combined record of 35-32. That’s interesting considering how deep this conference has been over the years.

Zach Auguste is playing like seniors normally do under Mike Brey at Notre Dame. The 6-10 big man is averaging 15.3 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Irish while shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Auguste has double-doubles in six of Notre Dame’s first eight games. The Irish are currently 6-2 overall.

The underrated game of the weekend is Saturday in College Station when Kansas State travels to Texas A&M. Bruce Weber’s squad has been one of college basketball’s pleasant surprises at 7-1 and has only lost a neutral site game against North Carolina. A win on the road over the Aggies would give the Wildcats serious air in their tires as they hope to build a potential NCAA resume in the arduous Big 12.

Robert Johnson is slowly turning the corner for Indiana. The sophomore guard is averaging 11.0 points over the Hoosiers’ last four games and is shooting 9-of-12 from 3-point range during that span. When Johnson is on the floor, Tom Crean’s team is just better because it has another ball mover and shot maker on the perimeter who can extend the defense. Indiana is 7-3 overall.

This is a huge recruiting weekend for Shaka Smart and Texas. The Longhorns will host Andrew Jones — a Top-40 prospect in the Class of 2016 — on campus for an official visit. The versatile Jones is also being recruited by Arizona, Louisville, Baylor, SMU, and Kansas. Texas (5-3) hosts North Carolina on Saturday in Austin.

Kansas transfer Andrew White is putting in work at Nebraska. The 6-6 wing is currently leading the Cornhuskers in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (5.4) while shooting 49.1 percent, 81.4 percent from the foul line and 41.9 percent from 3-point range. Tim Miles’ team is 6-4 overall and next hosts Rhode Island on Sunday in Lincoln.

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