Georges Niang

Preseason preparations include hot yoga sessions for Iowa State

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Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones were one Aaron Craft shot away from taking Ohio State to overtime in the NCAA tournament Round of 32 last season. Alas, Craft’s clutch shot fell and it was the Buckeyes, not Iowa State, who booked tickets to Los Angeles for the West regional semifinals as a result.

With four of their top six scorers gone from that team, the Cyclones do have some work to do when it comes to role allocation. But they won’t lack for talent, with forwards Melvin Ejim (11.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and Georges Niang (12.1, 4.6) returning and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane (15.1, 7.0 apg, 4.4 rpg) arrives to give Iowa State some much-needed firepower on the perimeter. With an eye towards the 2013-14 campaign Iowa State’s added an activity to its preseason workout routine: weekly hot yoga sessions.

Yoga can be very useful for athletes due to its effects on breathing techniques and flexibility, with the latter being an issue for some due to the weightlifting done in order to increase physical strength. Adding heat to the process, with the temperature in the studio reaching in upwards of 100 degrees, can act as a cleanser of sorts as noted in a story written by Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune.

“With the added heat, you sweat a lot more, which is great for caloric burn,” Emily Hampton, owner of Ignite Yoga and the team’s instructor, said. “But really most importantly you get rid of toxins. In yoga we squeeze a lot, release toxins, flush them with water and then get them out with our sweat. It’s kind of cleansing.

“The heat is really an important aspect in my opinion.”

The players were hesitant at first, which is understandable given the fact that hot yoga was a departure from their regular training regimen. But they’ve begun to notice the benefits, both mentally and physically, of hot yoga.

“I feel like it’s definitely built our mental toughness,” Niang said. “If you’re not used to doing something, just pushing your body to a new limit and having yourself know at the end of the day that you can do it when you went in to it thinking that you couldn’t.

“When Emily is telling you not to let up, this is all in your head, it’s so true,” he added. “It’s like when you’re down five with 30 seconds to go. You have to tell yourself you can do it and fight through.”

Whether it’s boot camps or yoga, teams will do some “unconventional” things during the offseason and it’s a good idea. It deviates from the standard routine, and the forced adaptation could ultimately benefit teams on the court in crucial moments. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of an impact the yoga sessions have on Iowa State’s production this season.

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.