AMES, Iowa — The Iowa State Cyclones moved into the top 10 behind their high-scoring offense. But the Cyclones moved into first place in the Big 12 because of their defense.
Ninth-ranked Iowa State limited Kansas State to only one field goal in the final four minutes to pull out a 77-71 win over the Wildcats at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday.
“It was do or die and we don’t want to come out at home and drop one after a big win against Kansas,” forward Jameel McKay said. “So, we just knew it was gut check time and we had to get stops.”
Neither team built a double-digit lead in a back-and-forth game that came down to the final minutes.
After Kansas State guard Marcus Foster hit a layup to give the Wildcats a 69-67 lead with 4:02 left, they struggled to score. Iowa State held Kansas State without a point on its next seven offensive possessions.
A dunk by McKay tied the game at 69, and Iowa State took the lead with two free throws by guard Naz Long.
A tear-drop basket by guard Monte Morris pushed the Cyclones’ lead to four with 36.6 seconds left, and Iowa State hit four free throws in the final half minute to seal the win.
“Our intensity was a little off,” forward Georges Niang said. “With four minutes left, we realized we had to do something and we did that. You can’t do that too many nights in this league because the competition is so good, but that is what we really focused on, what we had to do and we got it done.”
Iowa State had a balanced scoring attack. McKay came off the bench to lead the Cyclones with 15 points, while adding seven rebounds. Niang had 12 points while Morris scored 11 points and Long had 10.
“The biggest thing for me is confidence and repetition and trusting myself because I work on it every day and believing that it will go in and that is the biggest thing,” McKay said.
Kansas State forward Nino Williams scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Forward Thomas Gipson added 15 points for the Wildcats while Foster scored 16 points.
Kansas State took control early in the second half. Suffocating defense helped the Wildcats hold the Cyclones to 4-of-14 shooting while the Wildcats hit 6 of their first 10 shots.
The Wildcats started working the ball inside more in the second half and used an 11-1 run to build a 54-49 lead with 13:03 left.
“Nino had a great game, probably to the point of exhaustion,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Great stat line. Thomas was very good. We got it to them, but we probably got to get it to them more.”
Iowa State clawed back as forward Abdel Nader had a 6-0 run on his own, putting the Cyclones up 58-56. Nader finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
“Abdul came right off the bench and was making winning plays,” Niang said.
The first 20 minutes were a study in how to establish an identity for teams that play polar opposite styles, as Iowa State took a 39-28 lead into halftime.
The Cyclones prefer to play at a frenetic pace, using outlet passes and NBA-like spacing principles to set up layups and transition 3-pointers while playing games with scores in the 70s or 80s.
The Wildcats prefer to slow the game down to a crawl, relying on defense, toughness and a few key shots to keep games in the 50s or 60s.
Iowa State started sluggishly, coming off an 86-81 win over No. 11 Kansas on Saturday, as Kansas State slowed the tempo and jumped out to a 17-12 lead. Williams scored 10 of the Wildcats’ first 17 points.
“All the games we’ve played here in three years have all been the same if you look at it,” Weber said. “It goes down to the last couple of possessions, the last couple of minutes.”
As is usually the case with the Cyclones, a 3-point shot helped turn things around. Long hit a 3-pointer as part of an 11-0 run. The Cyclones started running midway through the half and
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