ISU faces polar opposite in NCAA opening round


ISU redshirt senior Will Clyburn speaks at Iowa State’s news conference on March 21, 2013, at the University of Dayton Arena.

Dean Berhow-Goll

DAYTON, Ohio — When Iowa State plays Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA tournament, complete opposites will be competing against one another.

One team pushes it and the other slows it down, but both teams want to dictate the pace early. Iowa State knows how key it will be.

When the team rebounds, they get out in transition, when they get out in transition, the ball moves and when the ball moves they hit shots.

“The biggest thing we have to do is rebound,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “In order for us to play at our tempo, you’ve got to get the ball off the glass and push it down the floor to get some transition opportunities.”

Notre Dame knows who it will be keying on. ND guard Eric Atkins said the Irish plan to key on Will Clyburn and Georges Niang, calling them key, dynamic players.

“I know Clyburn can really score the ball from anywhere,” Atkins said. “He can do it a lot of different ways. And their big guy Georges because he’s a very dynamic scorer, he scores a lot of different ways from the perimeter, inside a too.”

Clyburn has been a key to Iowa State’s success throughout the year, especially in the end of the year push into the postseason.

In Iowa State’s three-straight wins against No. 13 Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament, Clyburn averaged just more than 21 points and eight rebounds per game.

Niang also figures to be key with the fact that he plays the five, but is rarely caught standing still under the hoop.

Niang is second on the team in 3-point percentage with almost 39 percent, only trailing the Big 12-leading 3-point shooter in Tyrus McGee.

“We’ve played against shooter at the 1-2-3-4, but the five man that can shoot the 3’s is something we haven’t seen this year,” said ND forward Jerian Grant.

With Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, a first team All-Big East selection starting under the hoop, Niang could pull him away from the hoop, like Iowa State did to Kansas’ Jeff Withey, forcing him out of his element. Cooley finished the regular season with more than 13 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“I think the way we play naturally pulls any big away from the basket,” said ISU forward Melvin Ejim. “That’s just naturally the way the game goes with the type of style we play and the bigs we have.”

Now Iowa State is hoping to replicate the success it experienced only a year ago in the NCAA tournament. While the team looks to its seniors for guidance, including the senior point guard who has seen multiple Final Fours, the freshman put it best.

“This is just another game when it comes down to it,” Niang said. “If you win, you get another game. It’s basically a one-game season, but [the seniors] have definitely stressed it. No game in the NCAA tournament is a cake walk.”