‘Hilton Magic’ strikes again as Iowa State knocks off No. 7 Michigan

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In a game that was billed as the biggest non-conference game in the history of Hilton Coliseum, both Iowa State and No. 7 Michigan received pre-game boosts in the form of the return of their most important big men. Mitch McGary would make his season debut for the Wolverines, and senior power forward Melvin Ejim would do the same for the Cyclones.

Both had significant impacts on the outcome, but in the end Iowa State’s balance made the difference in their 77-70 victory. Ejim finished the game with a game-high 22 points to go along with nine rebounds and three steals, leading five Iowa State players in double figures. And while neither team shot the ball well from beyond the arc (Michigan: 8-for-29, Iowa State: 6-for-20) Iowa State was plus-9 in points from the foul line (13-4).

The contributions came from multiple players for Fred Hoiberg, and given how much the Cyclones lost from last season’s squad that will need to be the case as the season wears on even with Ejim back in the fold. Dustin Hogue posted the first double-double of his career with 12 points and ten rebounds, and through three games the Indian Hills CC transfer is averaging 11.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest. And sophomore guard Naz Long, who played 6.9 minutes per game as a freshman last season, continued his hot start to the season with 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting (4-for-6 3PT).

Iowa State isn’t the deepest team around, with the rotation consisting of just seven players. But the Cyclones have seven players talented enough to contribute in some form on a nightly basis. Ejim, sophomore forward Georges Niang (ten points, six rebounds) and senior guard DeAndre Kane (13 points, six assists and five rebounds) are the names most will recognize but it takes more than three players to experience success against top competition in both non-conference and Big 12 play.

Ejim’s return (and how productive he was) will receive the majority of the headlines, and that’s understandable. But looking at the result with the long-term in mind, the fact that Ejim wasn’t required to do all of the heavy lifting in his first game back bodes well for the Cyclones.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.