Iowa State survives, beats Central Michigan

Jeremiah Davis

After a nine-day layoff, the ISU men’s basketball team survived to beat Central Michigan 59-52 at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday.

Leading up to the matchup, players and coach Fred Hoiberg said rust from the layoff wouldn’t be an issue. However, that didn’t seem to be the case, as the Cyclones (8-3) suffered from a low “level of intensity.”

“Somebody had to,” Hoiberg said when asked about showing intensity himself during a timeout. “I’ll say this: thank god for Tyrus [McGee]. He was the one guy out there who was just fighting through everything.

“When you have tough stretches, you’ve got to have somebody that’s gonna fight through it. Today it was Tyrus. Tyrus was the guy who fought through it, he battled and he did a great job of keeping us in it.”

McGee, who as usual came off the bench for Iowa State, finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds and, maybe most importantly, no turnovers. As a team, the Cyclones finished with 16 turnovers and just eight team assists.

With just under eight minutes left in the first half, Iowa State held a 27-11 lead. Through the rest of the first half and well into the second, Central Michigan (5-6) whittled away at the Cyclone lead and at one point took the lead 50-48 with 6:50 left in the game.

From there, the Chippewas didn’t have another field goal the rest of the game, adding their final two points from free throws.

“I thought down the stretch, when we had to have stops, we got them,” Hoiberg said. “That’s got to be our mentality. [The defensive energy has] to be 40 minutes, it can’t be 20, or else we’re playing with fire.”

Iowa State seemed to be in a lull, with the crowd a non-factor, in the second half. That was, until McGee got a steal and a fast-break dunk that woke up the Hilton crowd — minus the student section, since it is on break — and the Cyclone players.

The players recognized that as a turning point and said after the game that they need to keep the team intensity up to avoid needing a turnaround like that.

“It’s a collective team thing,” said forward Royce White, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. “I don’t think we understand that as a team, as a unit, everything that we all do affects the whole entire flow and the vibe of the whole team.

“We’ve got to grow and understand [that] when we’ve got somebody down like that, we have to keep them down.”

McGee noted that the defensive effort was up and down, as the team showed strong defensive play in the opening minutes and closing minutes, but perhaps not in the in-between time. Fixing that, he said, could fix many of the problems the Cyclones have.

“We have spurts, sometimes ups and downs [on defense],” McGee said. “We just [have] to work on those down parts.”

Before the season, Hoiberg talked about finding a leader for the team both vocally and on the court. In listening to what Hoiberg said following the game on Sunday, it appears as though McGee is stepping into that role.

“Those plays he made at the end of the game were huge,” Hoiberg said. “And that’s the only reason we won this game, is because of the intensity of Tyrus. He was the one guy playing through mistakes. He brought it. He was the guy that was the heart and soul of that game today.”