On Thursday, the Trojans shocked the Boilermakers with a double-overtime win to send (5) Purdue packing after the first round. Senior G Josh Hagins was electric during that effort, scoring 29 second half points and putting Arkansas-Little Rock on his back and carrying them to victory. Clearly, if the Trojans were going to beat a good Cyclones team and become the second team from the Sun Belt Conference in the last 30 years to make the Sweet 16, they were going to need a big game from Hagins.
The first half was mostly about two players and they both played for the Cyclones. Senior G Georges Niang and Junior G Monte Morris. Niang scored 17 points in the first half, contributing in scoring as well as a beautiful alley-oop pass to Jameel McKay for the and-1 dunk. Monte Morris only scored 5 points, but his smothering defensive effort on Josh Hagins kept the Trojans best player to two first half points on 1-4 shooting. In fact, Hagins couldn’t find much room at all vs Morris, attempting his first shot of the game at 11:35 and only making his first FG (contested) at the halftime buzzer. After the Trojans pulled within two points of the Cyclones with 5:15 remaining the first half, Iowa State went on a 14-4 run to close out the first half with a 40-28 lead.
Things didn’t get better for the Trojans in the second half as Iowa State held Arkansas-Little Rock at arms-length the entire 20 minutes, winning 78-61. The Trojans needed Josh Hagins to become the dominant player he was on Thursday and he was never given the space. “He’s not a slacker,” said Hagins on Monte Morris’ defense that stifled him to 8 points on 3-8 shooting. “He’s not somebody you kind of pick on on offense, you know what I mean? He can really guard. They brought plenty of help. Even when I got by him, there was a 6’9″ guy waiting on me,” said Hagins.
Iowa State took it’s first lead of the game at 18:22 in the first half and never let up, dominating the pace over the Trojans for more than 38 minutes.
“Coming into the game, we wanted to dictate tempo. We knew they wanted to play a little slower than we like to. Getting off to that good lead was crucial for us because I feel like we played at our pace pretty much the whole game,” said G Matt Thomas following the game. Thomas, along with Georges Niang combined for 44 of the Cyclones 78 points. “Georges is a special person,” said Coach Steve Prohm following the game. “He’s done so much for this school. I think the renaissance of Iowa State basketball, he’s a huge part of it.” Georges Niang is the Cyclones best player and tonight he played like it, pouring in 28 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. If Iowa State wants to advance beyond the Sweet 16, he will have to continue the special play he’s exhibited so far this tournament.
TOP PHOTO CREDIT: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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