Rushed Reactions: #16 Iowa State 74, Baylor 65

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 15th, 2014

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Big 12 Tournament final between Iowa State and Baylor.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Mayor Brings a Championship Home to Ames (AP)

The Mayor Brings a Championship Home to Ames (AP)

  1. Iowa State perseveres before finally getting over the hump. After Iowa State’s dominant shooting performance against Kansas, the Cyclones found scoring to be much more of a struggle in the first half against Baylor’s zone defense. Things couldn’t have started much worse for Fred Hoiberg’s squad, as they fell behind 11-1 to start the game and didn’t hit its first shot from the floor until more than seven minutes had passed in the first half. Iowa State’s Big Three of Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang were stifled into a miserable 3-of-17 performance before intermission, and the team as a whole shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half. Baylor’s zone moved very nicely, doing an excellent job of denying the lane and closing out on the perimeter at the same time to keep the Cyclones at bay, even though the Bears weren’t doing so hot on offense themselves. Baylor extended its five-point halftime lead to eight midway through the second half, but the Cyclones slowly chipped away. Although Baylor quieted an Iowa State-dominant crowd for most of the second half by answering with buckets of their own, the Cyclones finally broke through with consecutive three-pointers by Naz Long and Ejim and sealed the win from there.
  2. Big second half propels Iowa State to the Big 12 Tournament crown. All told, the Cyclones were fortunate to only be down by five points at halftime. They shot poorly and had a hard time cleaning up their misses, but fortunately for them, Baylor didn’t fare much better, shooting just 34.5 percent from the floor in the first half themselves. The Cyclones simplified their attack in the second half, mostly relying on close looks and mid-range jump shots to keep the game close before going over the top with the aforementioned pair of three-pointers. A 69.6 percent shooting clip in the second half powered Iowa State past Baylor in the home stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

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  1. That was some game, eh? Naz Long’s three with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime helped Iowa State force a third overtime with Oklahoma State last night. There the Cyclones got another clutch trey from Monte Morris and were able to walk out with a 98-97 victory, the program’s first win at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 19 opportunities. Lately it feels like there’s a different Big 12 team every week that needs to start worrying about its NCAA at-large chances. A few weeks ago it was the Cyclones; last week it was Baylor; and this week it looks like it is Oklahoma State’s turn because…
  2. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford announced Monday that freshman point guard Stevie Clark has been kicked off the team in the wake of his second arrest since the New Year. Ford released a statement through the university which said: “We care about Stevie and wish nothing but the best for him. We want him to find success in his future, wherever that may be.” Not counting last night’s game, the Cowboys were without Clark’s services during five games this season. The important thing for him now is to find a school where he can focus on his studies, basketball and perhaps most importantly, himself. I hope Clark can do all those things and more when he finds his new home.
  3. Like Clark, Aaric Murray was kicked off of a Big 12 team. But the ex-Mountaineer appears to now have his life in order after transferring to Texas Southern in Houston. Murray told KTRK-TV that he “wanted to quit basketball” after his dismissal, but ex-Indiana and current head coach Mike Davis was willing to take on the senior center to help him get back on track. This season, Murray is averaging 23.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the Tigers and some consider the embattled big man as a possible NBA Draft pick. How does Murray deal with the distractions today? “I just stay out of trouble now,” Murray said. “Yeah this is my last go around, I can’t mess this one up.” This could be Stevie Clark’s story someday.
  4. West Virginia’s 5-4 record halfway through conference play has finally grabbed the attention of the Big 12 offices. Juwan Staten (25.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 TOPG) took home Big 12 Player of the Week honors by spearheading the Mountaineers’ recent wins over Baylor and Kansas State. Texas frosh Isaiah Taylor earned the Newcomer of the Week award for his outstanding effort against Kansas. Since the Horns didn’t play a game midway through last week, I thought it’d be fair to include averages from the Baylor and KU games (25.0 PPG, 2.0 SPG, 17-of-32 shooting). Who woulda thunk that the Big 12 had good players besides Marcus Smart in November? I’d hate to have to pick between these two.
  5. Did you think we forgot about youTexas Tech? The Red Raiders logged another conference win on Saturday with a 60-54 win over TCU. Dejan Kravic had his best offensive game of the season, going 7-of-10 for 18 points along with six rebounds and two blocks. The win helped the Red Raiders reach the .500 mark for the year (11-11) and also tied last year’s mark for Big 12 wins (three). It’s a slow build to the top but seeing what Tubby Smith has done with other programs, there’s (finally) reason for some optimism in Lubbock. And no, we’d never forget you, Tech. You still matter to us.
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Big 12 M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

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  1. Tonight’s Champions Classic match-up between Kansas and Duke features two of college basketball’s top programs, coaches and freshmen, but there’s another battle going on between the two schools that won’t be decided until later this week. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will announce their collegiate choices Friday afternoon, according to a tweet from Okafor. The Jayhawks and Blue Devils have long been discussed as the top two competitors for the long-rumored packaged deal, and while the chase hasn’t been the public roller coaster that some recruiting stories can be, it looks like we’ll finally have some resolution.
  2. Yesterday, we touched on Naz Long‘s coming-out party Sunday afternoon in which he went off for 27 points against UNC Wilmington. The performance has the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson wondering if Long could see more playing time when Melvin Ejim returns. It’s important to note that Long and Ejim don’t play the same position, but finding enough minutes to go around is always a good problem to have, especially in November. After all, Long is no stranger to playing alongside major talent — his AAU teammates included Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
  3. For the second straight game, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield posted a career-high in the scoring column, making his presence felt by dropping 23 points on North Texas last night. Hield is now averaging 21 points per game, and he still has a long way to go, but if Hield and the Sooners keep this up, they could lead the Sooners to another NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins believes he’ll need every ounce of production he can get out of point guard Juwan Staten. After a rash of defections saw five transfers leave the Mountaineers (on top of three graduating players) over the summer, West Virginia is looking awfully thin. Staten played all 40 minutes of Friday’s season-opening win over St. Mary’s, and it will be interesting to see if he can be Huggins’ Iron Man in Morgantown like Kevin Jones and Da’Sean Butler before him.
  5. The question of who emerges alongside Michael Cobbins to produce defensively in Oklahoma State‘s frontcourt won’t be solved in the Cowboys’ first two games, but head coach Travis Ford hopes to have a clearer idea after tonight‘s game against Utah Valley State in Stillwater. Sophomore Kamari Murphy will be available after missing the season opener with a mild shoulder injury and is one candidate that Ford hopes will make the leap.
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Big 12 M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 11th, 2013

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  1. USA Today’s Eric Prisbell wrote an interesting column on Saturday in which he indicated that there’s more than meets the eye in the top-heavy Big 12. We may be biased, but we can easily get on board with that opinion. You need not look any further than Friday night when a pair of teams outside of the two getting the most pub had already secured important wins against power-conference foes (Oklahoma topping Alabama and Baylor getting the best of Colorado). Throw in a promising Iowa State team and some of the game’s best coaches at this level and you’d be unwise to limit your opinion to what you see from Kansas and Oklahoma State.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score from Kansas’ 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, but heralded freshmen Andrew Wiggins wasn’t as involved as many expected, even given some recent tempering of expectations regarding Wiggins by many in the media. It’s way too early to hit the panic button on either Wiggins specifically or Kansas as a whole, but given how easily Duke disposed of Davidson and that the Jayhawks didn’t pull away against a worse opponent until midway through the second half, it’s reasonable for fans in Lawrence to sense a little bit of concern heading into Tuesday’s match-up with Duke. Just don’t go too far.
  3. Iowa State sophomore Naz Long stepped in and scorched the nets for the Cyclones, hitting eight of 11 shots from beyond the arc as his team dismantled UNC Wilmington Sunday afternoon. Long’s eight makes yesterday matched his output in that category from all of last season. While there’s plenty of firepower up and down the Cyclones’ lineup (transfer DeAndre Kane nearly had a double-double at halftime), Fred Hoiberg may have found a designated gunner to replace the departed Tyrus McGee.
  4. Perhaps no team in the Big 12 had a more disappointing opener than the Kansas State Wildcats, who fell to Northern Colorado at Bramlage Coliseum Friday night. Bruce Weber’s team was without the services of big man Thomas Gipson, who is recovering from a concussion, but while depth isn’t KSU’s strong suit (and with all due respect to the Bears), it’s hard to find a legitimate excuse for Kansas State dropping this one. As it is, the Wildcats will look to recover tomorrow night against Oral Roberts.
  5. The Colorado Buffaloes were just the first in a long line of tournament-caliber teams that will line up against Baylor over the next two months. Head coach Scott Drew is excited to see what his experienced team can do in the Maui Invitational and against Kentucky, and so are we, though we aren’t sure we would sing the same tune if Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson had entered the 2013 NBA Draft rather than return to school.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 6th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.

Where We Left Off: For Iowa State fans, please excuse us, we don’t mean to re-live a bad memory. The 2012-13 season ended with Aaron Craft ripping the hearts out of Cyclone Nation with a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the second (or now third?) round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Iowa State made a serious statement a year ago, proving it belongs among the league’s best teams after finishing in a tie for fourth in the conference. While Hilton Coliseum has never been an easy place to play, Fred Hoiberg‘s mesh of young players and transfers has paid dividends in making Iowa State one of the scariest teams in the league every season.

Can Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Can Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Positives: Fresh off a successful run in league play a season ago, there’s so much to like about where Hoiberg has this program headed. While this Iowa State team did lose several key components to graduation, they return Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang in the frontcourt, both of whom played significant minutes last year. Ejim is a double-double machine down low and one of the best rebounders in the conference (although Ejim is expected to be out for most of November with a knee injury), while Niang has crafty skills to score the ball around the basket, and the touch to stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the outside jumper. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will be leaned on to fill the void from departed point guard Korie Lucious after averaging 15.1 points per game a season ago for the Thundering Herd, and freshman Matt Thomas is a sharpshooter who will fit in beautifully with Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, helping Cyclone fans get over the loss of Tyus McGee to graduation.

Negatives: Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into “Transfer U.” since he took over as head coach, and the strategy has worked almost flawlessly during this period. That said, there’s always a bit of a risk in relying so heavily on impact transfers and hoping the roster will gel during the year. While there is still a ton of talent on this team, the departures of Lucious and McGee, along with Chris Babb and Will Clyburn will create a big uncertainty in the backcourt. Whether Iowa State can continue to shoot the ball from deep as well as it has in the past will be a major factor in the team’s success this season.

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Knee Injury To ISU’s Ejim Thins Cyclone Frontcourt For Non-Conference Play

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) on October 31st, 2013

One of the biggest keys for Iowa State this season is whether its defense will be good enough to make the Cyclones’ high-powered offense stand up. As someone who led the Big 12 in double-doubles last season, forward Melvin Ejim was going to be a big part of that objective. The preseason all-Big 12 selection led the conference in rebounding last season, but the Cyclones’ prospects of hitting the ground running were dealt a big blow when the team announced Thursday that the senior will miss four to six weeks after hyper-extending his left knee and suffering a bone bruise in practice Wednesday.

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

The injury will likely keep Ejim out of ISU’s most important non-conference battle, which comes against national runner-up Michigan at Hilton Coliseum on November 17. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll also be sidelined for the Cyclones’ tilt against BYU in Provo three days later. The recovery window pegs his probable return as either December 7 against Northern Iowa or December 13 for another intrastate game against Big Ten sleeper Iowa, though obviously that’s subject to change based on the recovery. In the meantime, look for Fred Hoiberg to try to patch his frontcourt together with one of his patented small lineups. Forward Georges Niang could slide up to the five spot, moving probable starter and JuCo transfer Dustin Hogue to the power forward slot. If Hoiberg finds that he needs a bigger body down low, junior Percy Gibson could see a bump in playing time, though he’ll be an offensive liability if he doesn’t improve from his mediocre sophomore campaign. The trickle-down effect could also push junior Naz Long into meaningful playing time.

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