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Niang leads Iowa State past North Carolina Central

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Iowa State put to rest any threat of a North Carolina Central upset with a heavy dose of forward Georges Niang.

The No. 3-seeded Cyclones rode Niang’s hot hand in the second half to a 93-75 victory over the No. 14-seeded Eagles in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night at the AT&T Center.

Niang scored 15 of his 24 points after halftime, ensuring that Iowa State ran away with its NCAA Tournament opener. That was the good news for the Cyclones; the bad news was that Niang suffered a fracture in his foot and will be out for the rest of the postseason.

“That’s a big loss for us,” Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane said. “Georges is one of our main guys out there. He’s our leader.”

The Cyclones (27-7) advance to play North Carolina on Sunday in San Antonio.

Guard Jeremy Ingram led North Carolina Central (28-6) with a game-high 28 points.

Iowa State had five players score in double digits. Forward Melvin Ejim finished with 17 points, forward Dustin Hogue and guard Monte Morris with 15 each and guard DeAndre Kane with 14.

That scoring depth will help Iowa State make up for the loss of Niang.

“We’ll miss him,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “But, at the same time, I believe in the five guys we put on the floor and the bench guys that we’ll put in that will play significant minutes.”

Morris hit a 3-pointer to start the second half as the Cyclones began to assert themselves. Morris’ trey gave Iowa State a nine-point lead, which it stretched to double digits when Niang made a 3-pointer with 16:10 left.

Niang scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. Iowa State went ahead by 15 when Kane made a layup on an assist from Ejim.

North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton said Iowa State posed several matchup problems for his team.

“We haven’t seen anything like that,” Moton said. “Those are pros out there, man.”

Moton also expressed his disappointment that Niang suffered a tournament-ending injury.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Moton said. “That kid is tremendous. I’m a huge fan. He plays basketball the right way and he’s a matchup nightmare.”

Ejim scored six points during Iowa State’s 8-0 run late in the first half as the Cyclones threatened to pull away from North Carolina Central. Ejim finished the surge with a two-handed fast-break dunk on an assist from Monte Morris.

But the Eagles responded with a 9-2 run as Ingram completed a three-point play, hit a jumper and went to the basket for a layup that cut Iowa State’s lead to 40-39.

Ingram finished the first half with 14 points and forward Karamo Jawara added 10 for North Carolina Central.

Kane and Hogue had 11 points apiece in the first half to lead Iowa State.

Hogue finished the first half with an emphatic putback dunk of a Kane miss to give Iowa State a 45-39 halftime lead.

NOTES: Iowa State evened its all-time NCAA Tournament record at 15-15. … Iowa State played 18 games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season and went 12-6. North Carolina Central played three games against NCAA Tournament qualifiers, winning at NC State and losing at Cincinnati and Wichita State. … North Carolina Central, located in Durham, N.C., made its first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance. The Eagles won the NCAA Division II national championship in 1989.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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