Abdel Nader hit a three with 11.0 seconds left and Iowa State survived as the Bearcats got three looks at the rim on the final possessions, escaping Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena with an 81-79 win.
Georges Niang led the way for No. 11 Iowa State with 24 points and 10 boards, his lone assist coming of the final possession, when he broke down No. 22 Cincinnati’s defense and found Nader open in the corner. Monte’ Morris added 16 points and seven assists for the Cyclones, who got a surprise contribution from Deonte Burton off the bench, who finished with 12 points. The Cyclones also got a nice lift from Matt Thomas. He shot just 4-for-14 from the floor, but he finished with nine boards — eight on the defensive end — and four assists.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this win is that it came on a night where Jameel McKay, Iowa State’s lone rotation big man, finished with just five points and three rebounds, all of the offensive end of the floor. He was more or less a non-factor against a team that has one of the toughest and most athletic front lines in college basketball.
This was certainly the kind of confidence-boosting win that Iowa State needed. This is the kind of team that, on paper, they don’t match up all that well with, and the Cyclones went on the road and survived despite blowing a pair of 13-point leads and trailing on their final possession of the game. The Cyclones, their last two times they’ve played high major competition, needed a choke job from Iowa to win at home and lost to Northern Iowa in a game where they mad Wes Washpun look like Russell Westbrook.
There were quite a few people — myself included — that had their doubts about whether or not this Iowa State team can truly contend for a Big 12 title or a Final Four. Winning at Cincinnati isn’t definitive proof that the Cyclones are elite, but it is a nice little reminder that they have some dudes on that roster that can play.
As far as the Bearcats are concerned, they now have lost three of their four marquee non-conference games, the lone win coming over No. 20 George Washington at the Barclays Center. They lost by ten at No. 6 Xavier — no shame in that — and if Roosevelt Jones had missed a tough floater at the buzzer of their loss to Butler and Farad Cobb hits a tough-but-makeable three at the buzzer tonight, we would be looking at the Bearcats very differently right now.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that I’m still buying Cincinnati as an AAC contender despite their last two home losses.