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DeAndre Kane, Naz Long impress in Iowa State’s win over UNC Wilmington

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In Iowa State’s season-opening 95-62 win against UNC Wilmington, DeAndre Kane nearly had a double-double in the first half (11 points, 9 rebounds) — he probably could have had a triple-double if Iowa State didn’t take their foot off the pedal — en route to a 13 point, 11 rebound effort, and seven assist effort.

Sophomore guard Naz Long, who seldom played last year in more of a reserve role, poured in 26 points on 8-11 shooting from distance.

Last season, there weren’t many offenses that were as prolific and fun to watch as Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg’s up-tempo, three-happy offense averaged 79.6 ppg and took the Cyclones to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament where they nearly upset Ohio State. They lost the nucleus of that offense with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, and Tyrus McGee among others no longer on the roster, and there were questions if the offensive success could be duplicated.

One of the biggest offseason additions for any team occurred when DeAndre Kane, a transfer from Marshall, elected to spend his final year of eligibility at Iowa State. As a junior at Marshall, Kane averaged a shade over 15 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds.

Kane won’t fill it up from the perimeter like his predecessors did, but he adds another dynamic to Iowa State’s offense and can play multiple positions. The term “glue guy” is one that is overused and becoming a cliche in college basketball, but it aptly describes what Kane brings to the Cyclones — just look at how he stuffed the stat sheet this afternoon.

The country knew about Kane’s ability and what he’d bring to the Cyclones, but there were other unknowns for Iowa State heading into the season, particularly perimeter scoring.

Naz Long averaged just 1.4 points in 6.9 minutes last season, and has taken advantage of increased playing time right out of the gate due to Melvin Ejim’s injured right knee that he hyper-extended a week before the season. Long’s eight threes matched the number of field goals he totaled last season, and were two off the record set by Lucca Staiger in 2009. If Long can replicate the role that Chris Babb had last season for Iowa State, that bodes well for Hoibeg and shores up the void left on the perimeter.

Granted, the offensive success and big games by Kane, Long, and the other three starters (Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, and Matt Thomas) who finished in double figures comes against a UNC Wilmington team that finished 10-20 last year and don’t figure to be strong this season. Iowa State’s first major test comes next Sunday home against Michigan.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.