Rushed Reactions: #4 Iowa State 78, #12 Little Rock 61

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm, and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Iowa State Offensive Excellence. According to KenPom, the Cyclones are fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency. It’s easy to see why. They’ve got an excellent floor general in Monte Morris, a player always in charge. Georges Niang is a human mismatch, capable of scoring in the paint with the big boys, stepping out to the arc and knocking in threes, or creating off the bounce. Jameel McKay gets on the offensive boards and runs the floor. Abdel Nader can hit the three or attack the hoop. And Matt Thomas is the perfect off-the-ball compliment to the other pieces. It’s not often that even the best defensive teams in the nation have a chance of slowing the talented and versatile Iowa State offense.
  2. Little Rock’s Offensive Struggles. Little Rock does many things well, but supremely efficient offense is not one of them. Today, they had a four-minute scoring drought at the end of the first half, another six-minute stretch without points at the start of the second and another two and a half-minute scoreless streak in the middle of the second. Against a team that scores as efficiently and as often as Iowa State does, these droughts were back-breakers.
  3. Clean and Pretty. In order to have a chance in this game, Little Rock probably needed to ugly this game up in a barrage of floor burns and whistles. Instead, the teams combined for just 14 turnovers and 24 fouls (a few of which were late fouls intended to send poor-shooting Jameel McKay to the line). A handful of times, Little Rock tried to unleash the press that frustrated Purdue late on Thursday, but with ballhandlers like Morris, Niang and Thomas in charge, it never put a significant dent into Iowa State’s gameplan.

Star of the GameGeorges Niang. Little Rock tried to take Niang out of his game by throwing senior forward Roger Woods at him, but Niang played defense without fouling and was an absolutely nightmare matchup (as he normally is) on the other end. He scored in the paint, knocked in three threes, drove the lane, dished out three assists and even helped out as a pressure release valve. Not many teams in the nation have an answer for the All-American’s versatility, and the upset-minded Trojans were no different.

Sights & Sounds. Chris Beard. With the game not in doubt and time winding down, Chris Beard took the opportunity to pull his seniors Roger Woods and Thursday’s hero Josh Hagins. Hagins was emotional, a bundle of tears and frowns, but Beard gave him a big smile and a hug and told him he was proud of him. Then, just before the final buzzer, he turned to the few of us behind his bench on press row and said: “It doesn’t matter when your season ends, it always feels the same.” And from the look on his face, you could tell it didn’t feel great.

Wildcard. No Bench, No Problem. Once again, the bulk of the production for Iowa State came from their five starters. All but 30 of the available minutes went to the starting five, and five of those minutes came in garbage time. Deonte Burton and Hallice Cooke pitched in a combined 11 points; otherwise it was all starters. Even in the thin air of Denver, even against Little Rock’s physical and annoying defense, Iowa State never looked ragged, never looked tired, never looked anything less than supremely confident.

Quotable. Georges Niang, who missed Iowa State’s 2014 Sweet Sixteen appearance with a broken foot, on playing in his first Sweet Sixteen: “It’s gonna be awesome. This is what you work for. Being a little kid just dreaming about playing in situations like this. But I’m not going to get too overexcited because I want to poised and ready to go to tackle the next team we play.”

What’s Next? Iowa State advances to face the winner of Virginia/Butler in the Sweet Sixteen. Offensively, there’s no reason to have any questions about the Cyclones, but they’ll need to step it up on the defensive end to continue to advance. For Little Rock, Josh Hagins’ star has set, and Roger Woods has used up his eligibility as well. The big offseason question is the status of head coach Chris Beard, whose name has come up in connection with several other open jobs. He’s a future star in this sport and Trojans fans may have to be satisfied with one great year under Beard.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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