SAN ANTONIO — Seventeen points, four minutes, zero panic.
You’ve seen a lot of teams that would be trailing by eight points to a North Carolina team with four minutes left that would be down, if not totally out. You saw nothing of the sort from the Cyclones, who scored on seven of their final eight possessions for a total of 17 points, the last two of them on a basket that was a result of sheer willpower by DeAndre Kane with 1.8 seconds left.
The Tar Heels flubbed up their last possession and got neither a timeout or shot, and it seemed only fitting. Because the Cyclones were mentally tougher than college basketball’s old money from Tobacco Road.
Iowa State is headed to New York’s Madison Square Garden after this 85-83 triumph, and that seems only fitting, as well. For Kane is a player and this is a team with enough heart and entertainment value to belong in the nation’s most-famous arena Friday night in the Sweet 16.
But behind the souped-up offense is a dialed-down head coach whose team gave yet another late-game clinic against a credited foe, the ninth ranked team his men have conquered this season.
Before he entered the handshake line after ISU’s win over North Carolina Central here Friday night, Hoiberg was told that Georges Niang’s second-half injury was a fractured bone in his right foot. The Mayor, whom you’ve seldom if ever heard utter a vulgarity, shouted one of the four-letter variety before regaining his composure in time to talk nice with television people.
That was that, many outside the Cyclones’ camp thought. No Niang, no way they beat North Carolina. Another cruel postseason break.
Two San Antonio Express-News writers picked the Tar Heels in Sunday’s paper, one by eight points and the other by 10. They aren’t dumb guys. They just didn’t know what Iowa State has going on behind the scenes.
But Niang knows. He knew Saturday after discussing things with his teammates.
“I called them into my hotel room,” he said. “I told them ‘Listen guys, all the adversity that we’ve faced, we can still do this. We got this.’
“Melvin (Ejim) responded. Everybody in the room said something, DeAndre, Matt (Thomas). That’s when I knew we were going to be good and we were going to have a chance to win this game.”
Talk is nice, but the Cyclones still had a short period of time to rework an offense that had gone primarily through the inside-outside sophomore forward who averages 16.7 points and 3.7 assists a game.
“Obviously you miss Georges,” said first-year Iowa State assistant coach Doc Sadler, who was Nebraska’s head coach for six seasons. “Defensively, we didn’t do anything different than we’ve done all year. But at the offensive end, we probably have 200-and-some play-calls.”
Said Hoiberg: “I’ve got a whole side of my play card dedicated to Georges. I had to throw that out the window today.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. Sadler showed me a card with all the plays.
“For this game,” Sadler said, “Coach got it cut to probably 20. But it’s all the same things that we’ve been doing all year.”
“We just switched up some positions,” Ejim said. “Instead of a lot of things going through Georges, a lot of things go through me and DeAndre.
“Ultimately, we knew we were going to step up.”
Junior Daniel Edozie didn’t score in his first start as a Cyclone, in Game 35. But he got four rebounds in 16 minutes and didn’t get abused much on defense by UNC big man James Michael McAdoo.
“If we did anything thing different, we prepared for Daniel Edozie,” Sadler said. “We tried to get him prepared for being a starter.
“Other than that, Fred’s got so much confidence built in these guys, and they believe in each other so well.”
Edozie didn’t seem a bit edgy, and said later that he wasn’t. Somewhere, Hoiberg factors into that. With his whole team.
“Oh, they believed,” Hoiberg said. “One thing this team doesn’t lack is confidence. That’s the big thing, I tell them.
“If we’re within a couple possessions late in a game, we’re going to find a way to win. We’ve done it all year. You get down eight, and our guys don’t panic. They fight through adversity. They just stay positive.”
Even the opposing coach, a Hall of Famer, was enamored with the Cyclones’ effort Sunday.
“I love Fred Hoiberg and his team,” Williams said. “They’re a fun team to watch.”
Now New York gets a look at Iowa State. It will be a virtual home game for Connecticut Friday night in the Garden. It’s doubtful that will trouble the Cyclones a bit.
©2014 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
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