Fred Hoiberg

Iowa State comes back, wins intrastate rival vs. Iowa

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Tonight in Ames, IA was college basketball at its finest.

A Friday night game in prime time between two intrastate rivals: Iowa and Iowa State.

It has been quite some time since both teams played each other while ranked in the Top 25. In fact, you’d have to go back to 1987 the last time they met both as Top 25 teams. High-level basketball is back in the state of Iowa, and that’s a good thing. Fran McCaffery and Fred Hoiberg have their respective programs trending upward in a big way.

Tonight was the Cyclones night as they knocked of Iowa, 85-82. Iowa ostensibly played their best half of basketball this season in the first half as they jumped out to a 45-38 lead, but coming away with a win in Hilton Coliseum tonight was going to be a difficult task. Georges Niang made sure of that.

Niang had a career-high 24 points, including the game-winner in the final minute. He shot 8-15 FG and 8-10 FT, along with dishing out five assists. There aren’t many 6-foot-7 forwards who have as dynamic of a game as Niang possesses.

Hilton Magic was sure to have an effect on the game tonight in favor of the Cyclones in some form, and that happened late in regulation. With the Cyclones clinging to an 83-82 lead following a baseline drive by Niang, Iowa guard Mike Gesell drove the lane and was fouled. Whether the sophomore guard was rattled by the crowd while standing at the free throw line will never be known, but Hilton was rocking. For his career, Gesell entered the game as an 80% FT shooter — he missed both.

After Iowa State got to within two points at 51-49 early in the second half on a DeAndre Kane layup, Iowa responded by extending their lead back to seven on an Anthony Clemmons jumper, which made it 58-51. This game had the feeling from the beginning, however, that it would go down into the final minute. And it did, but it looked like it was Iowa’s game to win.

The Hawkeyes led 82-77 with 1:29 remaining, but Iowa State ended the game on an 8-0 run. Four missed free throws during this final stretch — the two misses by Gesell, in particular — ultimately did Iowa in. Despite the loss, the effort of Iowa’s Aaron White cannot go unnoticed as the junior forward had 25 points and 17 rebounds — two off of tying his career high in points, and setting a career high in rebounds.

Both Iowa and Iowa State haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in the same season since 2004-05. Based on the play of both teams in the early going, along with tonight, it’s safe to say both will be dancing come March.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.