UMKC-Iowa St. Preview
Iowa State handled its challenging week in impressive fashion as the inexperienced Cyclones secured two big victories.
The competition figures to take a step down Monday night when No. 17 Iowa State returns home to host Missouri-Kansas City.
The Cyclones (4-0) have passed two huge tests with a victory over then-No. 7 Michigan last Sunday followed by a 90-88 win at BYU on Wednesday. They started 4-0 in 2012-13 before dropping their first two games against ranked teams despite starting four seniors.
Despite a lineup that lacks experience playing with each other - Iowa State starts a freshman, a sophomore and two transfers alongside senior forward Melvin Ejim - coach Fred Hoiberg's team appears to be gelling quickly.
"I don't think anybody knew what to expect with this group with all the new faces. But they've been awesome," Hoiberg said of his squad, which overcame double-digit deficits in both contests. "It's been a team that gets after it. I think they've shown a grit and toughness about them."
Wednesday saw the Cyclones hand the Cougars just their third loss in 67 non-conference home games. Ejim and DeAndre Kane - a transfer from Marshall - each scored 21.
Sophomore forward Georges Niang was the difference late with three straight jumpers in a 1:50 span late in the second half, the last of which provided a five-point cushion with 1:25 to play. He finished with 19 points, a career-high eight assists and five rebounds.
"We really tried to get the ball to Georges and isolate him and let him go make plays," Hoiberg said. "I thought we did a good job of getting him the ball where he needed it, and our spacing was good so he had the room he needed to make plays. That's what you want out of your go-to guy down the stretch."
Ejim was also impressive, going 3 for 6 from 3-point range. He recorded 22 points and nine rebounds in his season debut versus Michigan after missing two games with a hyperextended knee.
He had only four points and five rebounds in 22 minutes in Iowa State's 76-61 win at UMKC last season. The Cyclones outscored the Kangaroos 46-32 in the second half to improve to 2-0 in the series.
UMKC (1-3) earned its first victory under new coach Kareem Richardson in a 79-67 final at UT Martin on Wednesday. After a five-point loss to Division-II Emporia State in the opener, the Kangaroos suffered losses at Creighton and Nebraska-Omaha by a combined 56 points.
Senior forward Fred Chatmon turned in his first double-double of the season Wednesday with 20 points and 12 rebounds as he was 9 of 12 from the field with three blocked shots.
He had eight points and seven rebounds in last season's meeting.
One concern for Iowa State could be the Kangaroos' ability to force turnovers. Opponents commit an average of 16.8 per game with 11.8 coming on steals.
BYU scored 20 points off 13 Cyclone turnovers on Wednesday.
UMKC has never defeated a ranked team.