It may have been Senior Day for the Iowa State Cyclones, but it was the Iowa State sophomores who made the day memorable.
After losing two in a row, the Cyclones made sure the regular season didn’t end in a losing streak, as ISU roared back from a 16 point deficit to beat Oklahoma State in overtime, 85-81.
Senior DeAndre Kane led the Cyclones with 27 points, contributing eight assists and seven rebounds as well. Perhaps Kane’s greatest assist came at the end, a simple pass to sophomore Naz Long who hit a buzzer-beating three to force overtime.
Long, who hit three threes and finished with 14 points off the bench, calmly hit the game-tying shot and was met with thunderous cheers from the Cyclone crowd.
Long is no stranger to upsetting Oklahoma State, as he hit a three to force triple overtime back when Iowa State visited the Cowboys in February.
Fellow sophomore Georges Niang, who had a string of abysmal performances during Iowa State’s recent two-game skid, got back on track by scoring 22 points and grabbing six boards. His three point shot is still MIA (he went 2-9), and he eventually fouled out, but the return of his scoring was much needed for Iowa State.
Senior Melvin Ejim also fouled out, with about ten minutes to go in the second half. He made the most of his final minutes in the Hilton Coliseum, scoring 12 on 5-10 shooting, eight rebounds, and two blocks.
While the win was exciting, this foul trouble situation that has plagued the Cyclones all year concerns me. Kane, Niang, and Ejim are basically the Iowa State offense: they took 48 of ISU’s 63 shots and accounted for 61 of the team’s 85 points. If any one, or heaven forbid, two of these guys get into foul trouble, the team’s in a tough spot. Someone else needs to step up in that situation. Thankfully Naz Long was that guy today, but as fans saw during the two game losing streak, no one stepped up.
So that means one of two things absolutely needs to happen, with both being preferable. First, Ejim, Niang, and Kane can’t get into foul trouble. It just can’t happen, especially in the NCAA Tournament. If one or more get incapacitated by fouls, Iowa State is virtually done for.
Second, someone else off the bench needs to consistently contribute. Matt Homas and Naz Long are the frontrunners to be those guys, but they haven’t been consistent offensively game in and game out. That needs to change, because the tournament will be a grueling and tiring process, and some energy and production off the bench will go a long way for the Cyclones.
Perhaps with this recent performance, Long will start a consistent run. But someone has to help bolster Iowa State’s big three of Ejim, Kane, and Niang, because I have a nagging feeling this foul trouble situation isn’t going to go away.