Cyclones win double in Hoiberg’s first weekend


Guard Darion “Jake” Anderson drives the ball towards the hoop Sunday at Hilton Coliseum.The Cyclones beat the Alabama State Hornets 74-47.

Chris Cuellar

It wasn’t always pretty, but for an ISU team picked to finish last in the Big 12 by conference coaches before the season, being 2-0 after the opening weekend is an accomplishment.

Coach Fred Hoiberg won the first two games of his coaching career, knocking off Northern Arizona 78-64 Friday, and Alabama State 74-47 Sunday afternoon.

“As far as this team, I like what I’m seeing out of them,” Hoiberg said. “Especially the fact that they continue to go out every single day and play unselfish basketball. It’s such a fun thing to watch, and it’s an easy group to coach because of that fact.”

The Cyclones opened up with big first-half leads in both games, and despite only playing with an eight-man rotation for most of the weekend, kept their up-tempo style and stuck tight on defense. Iowa State’s defense only allowed its opponents to shoot a combined 28 percent in the first half of the games, and forced 33 total turnovers against the out-manned Lumberjacks and Hornets.

“We really preach to these guys every day to get up the floor, run and throw the ball ahead — and play unselfish basketball,” Hoiberg said. “These guys continue to do that.”

Continued success didn’t mean consistent results from the home squad though, with both games differing from tip-off in production. On Friday night, seniors Diante Garrett and Jamie Vanderbeken cooperated for all of Iowa State’s 35 first-half points, including eight 3-pointers. The newcomers came on strong in the second half, and four Cyclones finished in double figures on the night.

Sunday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum wasn’t exactly a game played in front of a full house, but Iowa State spread the scoring and success around, as four players again hit double figures. What’s more was that the Hornets didn’t have a single scorer in double figures.

“Every day we get at it defensively,” said senior guard Jake Anderson. “All we can do is prepare for the next challenge. We did a great job starting on offense.”

Hoiberg got an ovation from the crowd when he came out of the tunnel Friday, his first regular-season game as a coach. The return back to his hometown bench was hyped and well-reported on, but from the opening tip-off of Friday’s game, it was all about the players.

“It was a good weekend,” Hoiberg said. “These guys are out there and pulling for each other. When you have a group of guys like that, it makes my job easy, and it makes my job fun.”

Superior speed and shooting were direct factors to Iowa State’s success over Northern Arizona and Alabama State, dominating the paint and the space behind the arc on offense all weekend. The Cyclones shot 17-of-36 in the two games from 3-point range and outscored NAU and ASU by a total of 27-4 on the fast break.

“We’re just kind of taking what’s there,” Anderson said. “We’re just out there playing the way that we want to play basketball, and we’re just taking the shots that they’re giving to us.

With such a thin list of bench players, the Cyclone starters carried nearly all of the load against Northern Arizona and Alabama State as the freshmen got to feel out their new roles on the floor. The five starters, which only includes two of the team’s six newcomers, scored 126 of a possible 146 points in the two games. The Cyclones only shot a combined 47 percent against the Lumberjacks and Hornets, but will have to keep firing in volume to find success against tougher opponents.

“It’s what we hoped to see,” junior guard Scott Christopherson said. “It’s hard sometimes to predict what’s going to happen, but I think overall we’re pretty happy. We’ve got some things we need to clean up, but it was a good first weekend for us.”

This weekend’s games were part of the Global Sports Hy-Vee Challenge, which includes a round-robin event between Iowa State, Northern Arizona, Alabama State, Kennesaw State and Creighton. Last year’s coach at Iowa State, Greg McDermott, is the current leader at Creighton, and his team beat Northern Arizona 74-40 in Omaha on Sunday.

The Cyclones take the floor again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hilton Coliseum, hosting the Drake Bulldogs.