In his first year of eligibility after sitting out the 2013-14 campaign per NCAA transfer rules, Iowa State forward Abdel Nader hasn’t been a consistent impact player for the Cyclones. Entering Saturday’s game at No. 14 West Virginia, the former Northern Illinois player averaged just 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game. However, it should be noted that in the Cyclones’ two true road victories Nader has been an important contributor.
Saturday night Nader scored 19 points off the bench, matching the 19 points he scored in a win at Iowa December 12, helping to lead the Cyclones to a 74-72 win over the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Nader, who made six of his eleven field goal attempts, also grabbed seven rebounds to lead a group of reserves who combined to contribute 29 points and 18 rebounds.
Jameel McKay, who finished with six points and seven rebounds, also blocked five shots and the contributions of he and Nader (Matt Thomas scored four points) helped Iowa State make up for quiet nights from both Bryce Dejean-Jones and Naz Long. The two starters combined to score just nine points, shooting 3-for-10 from the field and missing all seven of their three-point attempts.
Iowa State also outscored West Virginia 32-18 in the paint, with the Mountaineers finding the task of getting quality looks inside a difficult one at times. As a result West Virginia settled for perimeter shots, attempting 29 three-pointers (nine more than their season average, and they made just seven) and shooting just 32.4% from the field. Juwan Staten scored 23 points but needed 17 shots to do so, with Devin Williams adding 14 points and 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
Saturday’s game was tight throughout, with Iowa State leading by no more than eight points and West Virginia’s largest lead being a meager three points. But Iowa State’s reserves were the difference-makers, as McKay and Nader combined to score nine points during a 9-2 second half run that turned a one-point deficit (58-57) into a six-point lead (66-60) with 3:28 remaining. And while West Virginia would trim that lead to one point on two separate occasions, they were unable to regain the lead.
Even with all five starters averaging double figures, Iowa State’s going to need contributions from their three bench players in order to contend for a Big 12 title. Saturday night they received that help from Nader and McKay, and the result was a valuable conference road victory.