Niang, Ejim Lead Cyclones to Upset of Michigan
By Rob Gray, Correspondent
AMES, Iowa Iowa State sophomore star Georges Niang stood at midcourt, basking in the Hilton Coliseum "magic" he'd helped create.
Then, the Cyclones' rock-steady senior point guard DeAndre Kane intervened first with a hug, then some words.
"He probably was telling me to stop talking to the fans and get back on defense," said Niang, whose late six-point run fueled a March-like 77-70 triumph Sunday over No. 7 Michigan before a sellout crowd of 14,384 that flowed onto the floor to celebrate as time expired. "But I don't remember what he said. It was in the heat of the moment. It was probably something good, though."
Very little of Sunday proved to be anything less for ISU (3-0), which benefitted greatly from the triumphant and early by two weeks return of forward Melvin Ejim, who sat out the first two games rehabilitating a hyperextended left knee and recovering form a bone bruise.
Ejim scored 22 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
He hoarded four of the Cyclones' seven offensive boards and drilled a clutch 3-pointer with 8:33 left, sparking a 13-2 run that turned a 60-54 deficit into a 67-62 lead less than four minutes later.
ISU, which trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, never fell behind again.
"They'd been sagging off of me for a while and I was kind of feeling it," said Ejim, who also snared a team-high three steals in 28 minutes. "I thought, 'Why not take the shot?'"
Why not, indeed.
"Maybe the most important shot of the game when they backed off him," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said of that key 3. "You could just tell. I was over there yelling to shoot it. He just rose up with confidence and had great rhythm and knocked down a big shot."
Which made for an even bigger win.
A victory that made a national splash, with boisterous soundtrack courtesy of ESPN2 analyst Dick Vitale.
The fans also made in impression and not just on Niang, who struggled early and missed 13 minutes of the second half because of foul trouble.
"(It) was an awesome environment for anybody that loves the game of basketball," said Michigan's Nik Stauskas, who led his team (2-1) with 20 points and six assists.
It began with a touching scene, as Hoiberg strode onto the court before tip-off accompanied by his coach, Johnny Orr, the original conjurer of Hilton "magic."
WiId cheers ensued.
A few tears nearly formed.
And the game hadn't even started yet.
"I got a little choked up walking out there with him," Hoiberg said of Orr, the all-time winningest coach at both ISU and Michigan. "I saw him back in the locker room before the game and I can't tell you exactly what he said, a couple of the words, but he said, 'I'm 86-years-old and I got dressed up for you.' But that was a really special moment to walk out there with coach before the game. He was pumped up. He wouldn't leave. I asked him if he wanted to coach the game."
That privilege belonged to Hoiberg, who saw a resilience in his team that can be difficult to produce at any point in the season let alone November.
"He never really gets on us for taking shots so guys go up with shots having the ultimate confidence," said Niang, one of five Cyclones to score in double figures with 10 points. "He's always preached to us that they're going to have their runs and we're going to have ours."
ISU's came from various outlets.
Naz Long was big with 16 points, including 4 of 6 from long range.
Kane primed the stat sheet with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Dustin Hogue contributed an intense all-around effort that included 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of the way they responded to the adversity that hit is out there," Hoiberg said.
- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/11/17/niang-big-late-ejim-huge-throughout-in-isu-upset-with-court-storming-video/#sthash.lWYfkPbh.dpuf