Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
AMES Iowa State forward Georges Niang's frozen-in-time moment started with a stop.
Down 82-81 to arch-rival Iowa, the 6-7 sophomore surveyed the interior terrain, then slung the ball back to point guard DeAndre Kane.
Kane swiftly returned it, time winding down, a Cy-Hawk Series classic's outcome hanging in the balance.
"He gave it back to me and said, 'Go to work,'" Niang said.
That he did.
Niang's reverse layup with 18.8 seconds left put the No. 16 Cyclones ahead for good in a memorable 85-82 triumph over the No. 22 Hawkeyes that played out before a sellout crowd of 14,384 at Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa's Mike Gesell followed Niang's hoop by missing two free throws and ISU's Dustin Hogue then drained a pair from the line.
Twelve seconds remained.
The Hawkeyes (10-2) called timeout and the Cyclones (8-0) mulled over options.
Foul (initial plan)?
Don't foul (eventual plan)?
A 3-pointer would have tied it and that's been a bugaboo for ISU in recent years, even recent days, when Northern Iowa's Seth Tuttle banked in a 3 to force overtime last Saturday.
So as Iowa's top percentage 3-point shooter Zach McCabe approached the wing unguarded (whoops) as the clock ticked toward zeroes ...
"I just expected that thing to go in," Cyclone Coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Students streamed onto the floor instead.
Strains of "Sweet Caroline" filled Hilton, where ISU's won six straight against the Hawkeyes.
In short, the first Cy-Hawk game featuring ranked teams since 1987 lived up to its billing as did Niang, who scored a career-high 24 points.
"I think the game lived up to its hype every little bit," Niang said. "I think the rivalry is back."
Niang scored 16 badly-needed points in the first half alone as Iowa ruled in transition and on the boards, leading by as many as 10 points.
"He's a playmaker," said Niang's roommate, Naz Long, who also helped keep the game close with three 3-pointers. "He gets it done. Big plays, small plays. He's just a flat-out winner."
That looked to be the tag the Hawkeyes would leave Ames with for the first time since 2003 until Niang, Hogue and Melvin Ejim combined for an 8-0 run over the final 1:16.
Iowa led for over 37 minutes and got 25 points and 17 rebounds from Aaron White.
"I honestly have no idea how we won that game," said Hoiberg, whose team is off to its best start since 1996-97. "They crushed us on the glass (49 to 35). They beat us in transition and those were the two biggest keys that I felt we had to have the upper hand (in) and we didn't and we found a way to win."
That crushing could have been worse if Hogue hadn't soared for 16 rebounds while Ejim chipped in seven.
Kane compiled nine assists despite battling first-half foul trouble.
Ejim scored 22 points for the second straight game, with eight coming in the final eight minutes.
"We're just a hard-nosed team that goes out and plays and scraps for everything," Ejim said. "Even when we're not playing so well we're able to find a way. We just found a way in a couple of those games."
ISU trailed by as many as 18 points against UNI before coming back to win 91-82 in overtime.
The Cyclones also overcame nine- and 12-point deficits in wins over Michigan and BYU.
"I told the guys in the locker room, 'Let's quit making a habit of that,'" Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg said he also told his players they'd spend two hours in Monday's practice drilling on late-game situations.
Next up: Hawaii, for the Diamond Head Classic over the holidays.
"There's still room to grow," Hoiberg said. "We can still get better and that's something I'm excited about."
He's not alone.
"The journey's not done," said Long, who finished with 13 points. "It's far from done, so we've got to keep it going."
- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/12/14/isus-georges-niang-scores-24-in-cy-hawk-series-win/#sthash.42ffcbef.dpuf