Iowa State might have been the favorite entering Monday night’s home game against Georgia State, but the No. 14 Cyclones still knew that Ron Hunter’s team was one of the most talented mid-major programs in the country. Even though the Panthers found their talented perimeter trio of R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware struggling in the first half — and four of its five starters with at least two fouls — Georgia State was able to stay in the game and only trailed, 35-29, at the half.
Things quickly changed in the second half.
Despite a poor shooting night from junior All-American candidate Georges Niang, the Cyclones came out running in the second frame and blew out Georgia State with a 81-58 win. Iowa State’s offense never seemed to find a rhythm in the first half, as it settled for too many perimeter jumpers and had zero transition points, but the second half was a different story, as junior guard Naz Long (17 points, 5-for-12 3PT) and his teammates finally warmed up from the perimeter and Iowa State was able to get out in transition.
You could sense Georgia State was in trouble early in the second half when its defense allowed three consecutive Iowa State transition buckets in the first two minutes, giving the Cyclones a quick double-digit lead, and the floodgates only opened from there.
Georgia State never came close to recovering, and that’s what makes Iowa State such a dangerous team.
Here were the Panthers, a talented team that likes to play uptempo and get quick shots for their three-point marksmen like Hunter, and the Cyclones were running them off of the floor by beating them at their own game.
Even though Niang shot 3-for-12 from the field, Iowa State’s other starters picked up the scoring slack as the junior forward still remained productive in other facets of the game. Niang finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, but couldn’t find the touch on his jumper all night.
Point guard Monte Morris finished with 19 points and nine assists while committing zero turnovers and shooting an efficient 7-for-9 from the floor. Dustin Hogue chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds and provided a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. Bryce Dejean-Jones slashed his way to a stat-sheet stuffing 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
And just like that, even though Iowa State couldn’t get a bucket to drop for Niang and was missing Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader, it still put up 46 points in the second half and smoked a very talented Georgia State team. The Cyclones had 23 assists on 29 field goals. They moved the ball, took good shots and didn’t waste any possessions the final 20 minutes.
Credit is also due to the Iowa State defense, which did a nice job of making things difficult for Hunter, Harrow and Ware. After a 3-for-9 first half, Hunter, the Sun Belt Player of the Year favorite, finished with 21 points while shooting 8-for-20 from the field. Point guard Ryan Harrow (12 points) struggled to a 6-for-22 night from the field since the Cyclones neutralized his primary option. Ware only added four points on 1-for-6 shooting.
Last year, the Cyclones had trouble stopping talented teams from scoring from time-to-time, but they looked much improved taking away multiple talented perimeter options on Monday.
It may be an early-season game against a mid-major opponent, but this was a really nice effort from Iowa State, especially considering its current lack of depth and overcoming a physical first half.