Cyclones play ‘Johnny Orr basketball’ as they conclude nonconfernce

The banner for former Cyclone coach Johnny Orr was lit up for the game against Northern Illinois on Dec. 31, 2013. Orr died early that morning.

Alex Halsted

Fred Hoiberg knew it would be tough.

While speaking to his team, Hoiberg broke down as he talked about legendary ISU coach Johnny Orr, who passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 86.

“I told them I needed them,” Hoiberg said. “I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to need you today, this is going to be a rough one for me to get through.’

“And they did that for us. And they did it for him.”

No. 13 Iowa State (12-0) responded with a 99-63 rout of Northern Illinois in front of a sold out Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones scored 55 first half points, hit 11 3-pointers and assisted on 28 of their 37 baskets on the way to their first undefeated nonconference slate since 1956-57.

“That’s Johnny Orr basketball,” an emotional Hoiberg said afterward.

ISU senior guard DeAndre Kane finished two rebounds shy of the fifth triple-double in ISU history with 16 points, 12 assists and eight boards. Melvin Ejim and Naz Long finished with 17 points apiece.

Three other Cyclones — Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Monte Morris — ended with double figures in scoring.

The attention following the game — after the team huddled at midcourt and pointed up toward the illuminated golden Orr banner in the rafters of Hilton — was on anything but those performances.

“We knew how much he meant to this community, these fans and this program,” Kane said. “We wanted to start out fast and jump on those guys and get this one for coach Orr.”

Just as Hoiberg had asked them to do in the locker room prior to the game.

“I broke down pretty good when I was talking to them this afternoon,” Hoiberg said. “I knew we’d come out and play well. I really talked about playing 40 minutes and coming out and getting off to a great start. And they did that.”

Players knew Orr best from the times he spent at Hilton in recent seasons, first-pumping his way onto the court. He made a visit just weeks ago earlier this season when Iowa State faced then-No. 7 Michigan and he and Hoiberg emerged from the tunnel at Hilton together.

A pre-game video tribute and moment of silence brought tears to the eyes those in attendance Tuesday night, and Hoiberg’s speech to players made them realize how much Orr meant to Iowa State.

So they helped their coach, and they played for Johnny.

“He’s still watching. He’s up there,” Long said. “He’s always going to be involved in the Cyclone community. He’s the father of Hilton Magic like coach said before the game.

“We just wanted to go pay our respect.”