Niang’s shot seals big win for No. 16 Iowa State


Brian Achenbach/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore forward Georges Niang celebrates after a Iowa State made three-point shot during Iowa State’s 81-75 win over Oklahoma on Feb. 1 at Hilton Coliseum. Niang lead the Cyclones in scoring with 27 points and went three for seven from behind the arc.

Alex Halsted

Fred Hoiberg yelled from the nearby bench for Georges Niang not to shoot and the crowd gasped collectively as the sophomore pondered the long-range shot in the final seconds Feb. 1.

Niang shook off both messages with 55 seconds to play and Iowa State leading by three points. Sure, he could have held the ball and allowed another 21 seconds to tick away before the shot clock expired, but he figured he might as well take the open shot.

So Niang, standing four feet behind the 3-point line, rose with confidence, and the shot sailed through the net. The basket doubled No. 16 Iowa State’s lead to a two-possession game, and the Cyclones hung on to defeat No. 23 Oklahoma 81-75 at Hilton Coliseum.

“What was I thinking, huh?” Niang said of the basket. “I completely zoned out and stepped into a shot. I thought it was a good one, and lucky for me, it went in.”

Just about everything went in for Niang as he scored a career-high 27 points while making 10-of-16 shots before fouling out with 28 seconds remaining.

“He’s a tough match up. He doesn’t mind taking the big shot,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. “I thought his 3 late there was a big shot that created a margin that we couldn’t quite come back from.”

Niang’s performance overshadowed a career day for Melvin Ejim. The senior forward scored 22 points and tied a career high with 16 rebounds in the win, recording his sixth double-double of the season.

Ejim, who entered Saturday averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, made a point to make an impact on the boards after Iowa State (16-4, 4-4 Big 12) was majorly out-rebounded in its loss to Oklahoma (17-5, 6-3) in early January.

“I took it upon myself in the last couple of games to really re-establish myself on the glass and get after it again and help our team win however I can,” Ejim said.

The two teams headed to the break tied 37-all after Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler hit a two-point shot at the buzzer to even the score following one of two Ejim 3-pointers with seven seconds to play in the first half.

The Sooners hurt the Cyclones behind one key player: sophomore Buddy Hield.

Hield, who scored 22 points with six 3s in the first meeting between the two teams, scored a career-high 30 points Feb. 1. But Hield didn’t make a shot in the final 15:52 after starting 10-of-15 from the field with 25 points.

Thereafter he went 0-of-3 with his final five points coming from free throws.

“We told him to stop shooting,” Niang said jokingly of what made the difference. “When we got out to him and made him shoot tough shots, we did a better job of not letting him score.”

ISU freshman Monte Morris made his first career start and scored 12 points. Fellow freshman Matt Thomas scored 13 points off the bench helped by three 3s, part of 10 total makes beyond the arc for the Cyclones.

None of those 3s were bigger than the one by Niang to put Iowa State ahead 76-70 when everyone yelled for him not to shoot.

“I was giving him the stop sign and he wouldn’t listen,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “He just rose up with all kinds of confidence and knocked it down.”

Then, Niang pointed toward the bench.

“I was just telling coach that I got it,” Niang said. “He told me not to shoot it.”

At the end of the day, the gasps from the crowd as Niang rose turned to cheers and Hoiberg couldn’t blame his young forward for taking the big shot.

“No fear, no fear at all,” Hoiberg said of Niang’s shot. “That shows you the kind of confidence that kid has.”