Career night by Niang lifts ISU past Buffalo

AMES — Just a few hours after earning the highest ranking in program history, Iowa State looked like a chaotic basketball team for a good 30 minutes in Monday night’s 84-63 victory over Buffalo (4-5).

The final 10 were a different story.

Georges Niang went 5-for-7 from 3-point range, scored a career-high 31 points (to go with 12 rebounds, which tied a career-high) and the Cyclones improved to 7-0 leading up to Thursday night’s game vs. Iowa (6:30 p.m. on ESPN2).

“Early on we were sluggish a little bit, a little bit rusty from the week (off) that we had,” junior point guard Monte Morris said. “We did what great teams do – we talked about it at halftime by making adjustments – and scored 50 points in the second half. I think that’s Cyclone basketball.” 

Sluggish nights in December aren’t bad when you have two All-American candidates on the roster. Morris scored all 12 of his points in the second half and dished out 10 assists (tied a season-high) too. For the first time since 2006, three Cyclones recorded double-doubles with Jameel McKay (13 points and 10 rebounds) being the third. 

Exactly how ugly was this game early on? Well, let’s just say that the first 20 minutes of this game were a bit bizarre.

After going on a 15-0 run midway through the first half, Iowa State only scored four points in the final 9:05 of the period. In Hilton Coliseum with this particular group of players, that’s like a month-long precipitation drought in Seattle. 

“We were struggling a little bit on defense giving them points late in the shot clock,” Niang said of the spurt. “I wouldn’t say we played poorly in the first half but our flow wasn’t very good on the offensive end.” 

The 14 thousand-plus fans inside of a near sold out Hilton Coliseum started to get nervous when Buffalo pulled within one at the 13:21 mark in the second half. That is exactly when the Morris/Niang combo took over to go on an 11-0 run over a good four-minute span. 

“We won the day. We are going to try to win tomorrow,” Niang said. “I think that’s what Coach is trying to preach to us and why we are having success. We really don’t think about who we are playing two games down the road. We think about getting in and getting our work done and becoming a better team every day.” 

There have been prettier 21-point wins but still, it was a 21-point win! Iowa State coach Steve Prohm offered perspective after the game.

“When I’ve coached good teams and I’ve done this before, you start evaluating wins,” Prohm explained. “Really just over-analyzing wins so when you win by 20, it ain’t good enough. Winning by 15 isn’t good enough. Were we supposed to win 100-60? They were good. They had some stretches where they played some pretty good basketball and we missed a couple of shots and had turnovers in the first half. We had a stretch in the first half where we had a 15-0 run and we were really good. It wasn’t perfect but if you just stay the course, we were eventually going to hit our stride and break the game open.”

Thursday night’s opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2), beat Western Illinois 90-56 on Monday night. 

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