Youth, lack of depth finally show for Cyclones

Chris Cuellar

Cedar Falls – It was tense from the beginning, and with one swift kick from freshman guard Melvin Ejim through a bench chair, the Cyclones undefeated run to start the season came to an end.

On a frustrating night in Cedar Falls, Northern Iowa dictated the pace and forced the short-handed Cyclones into foul trouble. Whether it was the relentless barrage of whistles, missed shots or the fact that this young team was on the road for the first time, coach Fred Hoiberg’s club buckled Wednesday night and now have to figure out where to go.

“We did not lose because of the lack of effort tonight,” Hoiberg said. “It’s their style, they frustrate you by slowing down the pace of the game, and I think that was the bottom line for the game tonight. They’re disappointed in that locker room, and they should be. Losing stinks and it hurts and it should hurt. Now we’ve got to bounce back.”

The Cyclones shot a season-worst 33.3 percent from the field in the game, made a season-low six three pointers and were out-rebounded by 11. It simply was not their night.

“We had a lot of shots that were there that we normally make,” said senior guard Diante Garrett. “We just didn’t make a lot of shots today.”

The tempo that had sustained Iowa State’s 84 points per game came to a halt, and Northern Iowa was able to continue their low-scoring, grind-it-out style that got them to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season. Scoring under 30 points in both halves and converting zero fast break points, the Cyclones broke down.

“I thought we executed fine,” Hoiberg said. “We got the match-ups we wanted. It seemed like there was a lid on that rim tonight.”

Ejim’s outlet of anger on his chair on the bench happened just feet away from athletic director Jamie Pollard, after the true freshman fouled out on his lowest scoring-output of the season. The chair wasn’t everything. It was the outpouring of emotion that built up during the game that pushed the Cyclones over the edge at the McLeod Center.

“We’ve just got to find a way to overcome that,” ISU guard Jake Anderson said. “We’ve all got to find a way to bring a lot more effort to an away game.”

The shooting wasn’t the only thing that upset the Cyclones, as the Panthers also shot a paltry 32.7 percent from the floor. Even with just eight turnovers, 22 fouls — and many at bad times — were critical to killing the pace that Hoiberg’s team have come to love.

“There were some points where Iowa State was missing some shots that they’ve been making, and we were fortunate,” said UNI coach Ben Jacobson. “We just felt like we had to work hard to keep the basketball in front of us when we could.”

The loss drops Iowa State to 1-1 against in-state opponents this season, but stretches Northern Iowa’s home win streak to 18 and gives them a win in their first Iowa game.

“It’s a big win, because it’s in-state and Iowa State was undefeated and playing some good basketball,” said Panther forward Lucas O’Rear, who was sporting a mullet Wednesday. “We protected the home floor, and we played all right.”

Junior guard DeMarcus Phillips didn’t make the trip from Ames for the game, and the Cyclones missed the effort of another fresh body on the floor, as only eight players saw action for the team.

Despite the youth and the loss, the players want to be ready for the next challenge.

“A lot of shots weren’t falling for myself, or falling for the team,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to find a way to take our show on the road.”

The demeanor of the squad wasn’t all doom and gloom at the end of the night and maybe that, along with hanging tough late in the game, could provide the spark for this squad to make the quick turnaround for the visiting California Bears on Saturday.

“I should retire,” Hoiberg said jokingly. “We were due for a night like this to come out.”

Ejim was held under 10 points for the first time in his Iowa State career, finishing with just seven.