The bigger the game, the better Iowa State plays.
The No. 14 Cyclones toppled No. 4 Kansas, 85-72, on Monday, this after beating No. 1 Oklahoma, 82-77, one week earlier. Iowa State has now beaten 21 ranked teams over the last three seasons, including a pair of top-five teams in the span of seven days, both at home.
At this point, it seems like any team that comes to Hilton Coliseum is going home with a loss. How do the Cyclones keep knocking off heavyweights at home?
“I think we’re the heavyweights now,” Iowa State forward Abdel Nader said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We’ve built a reputation for ourselves. We’ve won some tough away games too, so I don’t think it’s just winning at Hilton. But we got a big one coming up Saturday. Let’s see if we can get another heavyweight.”
Iowa State (16-4) plays No. 5 Texas A&M (17-2) on the road this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
But let’s get back to Kansas. Iowa State actually trailed 43-36 at halftime but went on a 24-7 run in the second half to win by double digits. The Cyclones forced 16 turnovers, including 10 steals.
“We really emphasized that at halftime because I don’t think we did a very good job in the first half of defending ball screens and playing in the gaps,” Nader said. “We really emphasized at halftime to play in the gaps and try to play up the line more and not make the passes as easy. I think we did a good job of that.”
Iowa State shot 51.6 percent from the floor, including a blistering 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from three.
“When you can shoot it like that, your chances of winning are pretty good,” said Nader, who shot 3-of-3 from behind the arc and finished with 17 points. “That’s what we do. We often shoot the ball at a high clip. Anytime we get it going, it’s great for us.”
Monte Morris had a team-high 21 points and a game-high nine assists in 40 minutes of action, while Georges Niang had 19 points and six rebounds for the Cyclones. Kansas shot 50 percent from the floor but just 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from three.
After facing Texas A&M this weekend, Iowa State hosts No. 9 West Virginia (16-3) on Tuesday, giving the Cyclones four top-10 opponents in five games.
“That’s the ups and the downs of playing in the Big 12,” Nader said. “I know Texas A&M is in the SEC, but it’s a great opportunity for us. I don’t think my teammates would want it any other way but to play a big time game every night.”
Iowa State trails Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor by a half game in the Big 12 standings, but there’s obviously a long way to go. Ultimately, the Cyclones would love to win another Big 12 Tournament title.
“Yeah, I definitely (think we can do it),” Nader said. “We’ve done it two years in a row. I think we can definitely do it. Obviously our goal is to win the regular conference (first). It can be tough, but we’ll see if we can get it done.”