Sometimes a win can be the cure to a lot of ailments.
After a hectic day that included the suspension of freshman Jordan Railey, the addition of two walk-on players from the ISU football team and guard Scott Christopherson sitting out due to injury, finishing off a 72-63 win over Northern Illinois felt like relief.
“Overall I’m pleased, it’s one of those games you just have to grind out,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. “Our defense kept us in the game early, when we weren’t making shots and couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
Cyclone senior guard Jake Anderson, who transferred to Iowa State after starting three years at Northern Illinois played the game he could have hoped for against his former squad. Released from his scholarship without explanation in April 2010, Anderson joined the Cyclones and finished the contest with 16 points — but more importantly, holding the nation’s No. 3 scorer Xavier Silas to just 18 points.
“You see Jake going out there tonight, he was an absolute warrior, just unbelievable,” Hoiberg said. “He did a good job on Silas, that kid’s a heck of a player. I think he’s a pro. And Jake goes out there and does about as good a job as you can do.
He’s just going to say it was another game, but it was a big one for Jake. He wanted to go out and perform, and for the way it ended for him, it was great for him to go out and get this win.”
Before the game, Anderson said he held no hostility towards the Huskies, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t determined to beat his former teammates.
“I’m just trying to get ready for the Big 12 season,” Anderson said to raucous laughter. “It was fun. Those guys weren’t just my teammates, a lot of those guys were my friends, and I talk to them on a daily basis, and even today. But when that ball goes up, they know it’s business.”
Iowa State’s Monday night game against NIU looked the way the rest of the day felt — ugly. Northern Illinois only had one proven scorer in Silas, and the Cyclones were playing with just a six-man rotation. The teams shot a combined 27.6 percent from the floor in the first half, and even the game’s leading scorer, ISU guard Diante Garrett started the game 0-of-11 from the floor.
“Throughout the game, we felt good with the shots that we were taking,” Anderson said. “We were just missing the shots that we normally make. Coach came in and said just keep shooting with confidence and things are going to fall for us.”
Fighting through the distractions and new faces in the lay-up lines, the Cyclones were able to come out strong after halftime and get the ball to drop in the hoop. From a 10-of-40 shooting effort in the first 20 minutes to 13-of-24 in the second half, Iowa State’s shooting overcame their rebounding deficiencies. The Huskies dominated the glass, finishing with a 51-41 edge that included 19 offensive rebounds.
The win makes the Cyclones 13-2, just two wins away from tying the last two season’s win totals, despite not playing a single conference game yet.
Leaving a shadow around the arc
Iowa State’s second leading scorer and the Big 12’s top 3-point shooter, Christopherson sat out Monday’s game with a sore elbow. The coaching staff wanted to give him a night off to prevent aggravating the injury, which he sustained in the Thursday’s game against Virginia.
“He wanted to go out and give a try tonight,” Hoiberg said. “I just want to make sure that these aren’t nagging things that are going to last him the rest of the year. We decided it was best if we saved him.”
No pads, just shorts
Cyclone football players Austin McBeth and Andrew Mitchell lived out lots of kids’ dream Monday. The two were announced as walk-on basketball players due to a thin roster, and will remain with the team for the rest of the season.
“I called Paul Rhoads last night, and said, ‘You got anyone that can play?'” Hoiberg said. “We brought them in for a workout this morning, and I had them going through a ball-handling drill where they went in and finished against a pad, and Drew Mitchell went three times and came up and said ‘Coach, can I go get a drink?'”
With the team down to seven available players for Monday’s game, the two provided extra bodies and got in the game in the final 12 seconds. Even if their names hadn’t even been sewn on their jerseys yet.
“They’re both world-class kids, and that’s the big thing to Paul,” the basketball coach said. “He said they’re going to come in and work and do anything you ask of them, and we need that.”
The two likely won’t play much of a role, as the team will practice with them but work around the scholarship line-up they have assembled, even if things look bleak.
“It’s fun, it’s different and I’m looking forward to seeing them play,” said forward Jamie Vanderbeken.
Jordan Railey’s suspension
Freshman center Jordan Railey was suspended for Monday night’s game for a violation of team rules following an auto accident in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, still under investigation by Boone County Sheriff’s Department.
Railey was at shoot-around before the game with the team, but will remain off the game floor until the program decides it is fit to bring him back.
“We’re still gathering information on everything that went down, and we felt it was appropriate to give him a suspension tonight,” Hoiberg said after the game. “I’m not going to talk a lot about it, I just can’t. I can’t do it right now with all the stuff that’s still out there.”
The suspension will be ongoing, and Hoiberg said he will likely avoid comment until the matter is resolved.