A dash of comeback
AMES – The noise was deafening even before Iowa’s Mike Gesell missed a potential tying free throw with 13 seconds left.
Then Hilton Coliseum started shaking.
At least that’s how it must have felt to the shell-shocked Hawkeyes.
Georges Niang scored 24 points, including the go-ahead basket with 18.8 seconds left, and 17th-ranked Iowa State rallied past No. 23 Iowa 85-82 on Friday night.
Niang’s reverse layup gave Iowa State an 83-82 lead. Gesell then missed two free throws as the frenzied fans rose to their feet – and aired out their lungs – in hopes of rattling one of the Cyclones’ biggest rivals.
Dustin Hogue then buried two foul shots and Zach McCabe, who entered play shooting 48.5 percent on 3-pointers, missed a wide-open 3 for Iowa (10-2).
“You could feel the vibrations in the building again. Just an unbelievable atmosphere,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Hogue had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Cyclones (8-0), who prevailed in the first meeting between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes as ranked teams in 26 years.
Aaron White had 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Hawkeyes, who led by as many as 10 late in the first half and outrebounded the Cyclones 49-35.
Iowa and Iowa State spent the final 10 minutes trading baskets in one of the most entertaining games in a rivalry that stretches back over a century.
The final minute belonged to the resilient Cyclones.
The Hawkeyes had the ball up 82-79 with less than a minute left. But White turned it over in an uncharacteristic mistake during what was arguably his best game for Iowa.
Melvin Ejim hit two free throws and Devyn Marble missed one, giving Niang his chance to drive beneath the basket for a tough scoop shot that proved to be the difference.
Ejim had 22 points and seven rebounds and Naz Long had 13 points for Iowa State.
“That’s the toughest part about it. We executed the whole game. We did a lot of things that we came into the game saying we had to do if we want to win this game, like rebounding,” Gesell said. “Just little plays down the stretch that killed us.”
This was Iowa’s first true road game – in one of the most hostile environments it’ll play in all season.
It didn’t faze the Hawkeyes in the first half.
Iowa jumped out to an early lead, helping quiet the raucous crowd. The Hawkeyes showed their impressive depth with multiple baskets from five different players, and White’s 13 points helped them build a 45-38 lead.
The Cyclones might have been out of the game by halftime if not for Niang’s 16 first-half points.
Iowa State was able to pull even at 62 with just more than 10 minutes left – and Hogue’s 3-point play made it 65-62 Cyclones.
“I felt like we were stuck in the mud the whole game. We couldn’t really get to our type of game of getting up and down and getting things going and making 3s,” Niang said. “I just think we did a good job being persistent in attacking them and it paid off.”
Marble had 19 points and six assists for the Hawkeyes. But he and Gesell missed crucial free throws they would typically expect to make.
Iowa was just 50 percent from the line in the second half.
“Those are the guys I would have picked. I know they feel terrible right now. I feel for them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “But if I could have who I want I would pick those two guys.”
Though Iowa and Iowa State have been at each other’s throats for decades, many of those games were irrelevant nationally.
It’s been a long time since the Hawkeyes and Cyclones were this good this early.
The last time Iowa and Iowa State met as ranked opponents was in 1987 in perhaps the most illustrious of the 66 previous meetings between the heated instate rivals.
That game, which was also in Ames, will long be remembered as the one when Cyclones star Lafester Rhodes scored 54 points to lead Iowa State past Iowa 102-100 in overtime.
This one also wound up being quite memorable for the Cyclones.
“I honestly have no idea how we won that game. I look at the box score and they crushed us on the glass and they beat us in transition,” Hoiberg said. “I give the credit to this game to our fans. No way in heck we win this game without them.”