Cyclones blow away Bulldogs 91-43

Melvin Ejim dunks the ball in the final half of Wednesday’s game against the Drake Bulldogs. The Cyclones defeated the Bulldogs 91-43.

Chris Cuellar

In the 170th meeting between the storied Drake and ISU basketball programs, the Cyclones opened up a lead larger than the gap between Ames and Des Moines.

In front of an energized 12,988 fans at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday, the Cyclones (3-0) turned what was supposed to be their first tough test of the season into a dominating showcase, beating the Bulldogs (1-1) 91-43.

Fueled by an unbelievable night from guard Scott Christopherson and a bad shooting night from nearby Drake, a 23-1 run in the first quarter would be all the Cyclones needed to put the game away.

“It was just one of those nights,” Christopherson said. “Even in warm-ups today, I felt like no matter what I threw up, it was going in. I’m thankful that it carried on into the game.”

Christopherson finished with 29 points on 11-of-11 shooting, tying an ISU record from 1989. It was a night even Iowa State’s NBA-famous coach Fred Hoiberg could appreciate, as he pulled the junior off the floor with eight minutes left in the game to a standing ovation.

“I heard it was my record, that’s why I didn’t put him in,” Hoiberg said to a roomful of laughter. “I could sense in shoot-around today that Scottie was going to have a big night. He had a lot of lift on his shot, he had a lot of bounce and he was in a great mood.”

German and since-departed guard Lucca Staiger knocked down a school record 10 3-pointers against the Bulldogs last season in an ISU win, but the new-look Cyclones seemed to make the crowd forget all about shooting nights in the past. At the 8:49 mark in the second half, Christopherson had outscored Drake 29-28.

“He’s worked extremely hard. He’s a guy who can get it going, and he got it going tonight. We certainly didn’t bother him enough,” said Drake coach Mark Phelps.

While Iowa State’s up-tempo offense fills the stat sheets, it has been the team’s defense that has pushed it to a strong start. The Cyclones have allowed just 27.3 percent shooting in the first half of their first three games, and held the potentially hot-shooting Bulldogs to just four 3-pointers on the night and 22.4 percent overall.

“For it being my first time [in rivalry], I got pretty pumped and excited to go out,” freshman forward Melvin Ejim said. “You don’t really see how competitive it gets until you actually play in the game. It was a good experience for me, and I loved it.”

Drake looked powerless to stop the onslaught in the second half, getting outscored 46-22 in the final 20 minutes. Iowa State got its points in the paint early, and as the game wore on, forced the pace. The Cyclones lived up to their nickname, owning the Bulldogs all over the floor, leading 42-10 in the paint and 15-0 on the fast break. Every ISU player scored.

“That was a good, old-fashioned whipping. I thought coming into the game they were playing very well. They beat us in every way at both ends of the court. We’ll certainly learn from this and get better from this,” Phelps said. “In that building, they play with a lot of energy on offense and really did a good job on the defensive end. I think that we ran into a team that was on a roll, stayed on a roll, and we helped the roll.”

The game brings hope to a team that was expected to struggle heading into a tough stretch in the schedule. Drake had beaten Iowa State two-straight times at Hilton Coliseum, but this year’s edition ensured the Cyclones wouldn’t join the infamous three-game home losing streak of 1937 to 1939.

All 10 available Cyclone players got on the floor for at least six minutes of action, and for the team picked to finish last in the Big 12 at the start of the season, this is the start they only could have wished for. The average winning margin of Iowa State’s first three games has been 29.7 points.

“These guys are out there playing with a chip on their shoulder right now,” Hoiberg said. “They want to go out and prove people wrong. If they continue to go out there and play like that, who knows what can happen.”

The Cyclones’ largest winning home margin against Drake had been 38 points, set in 1993, but Iowa State didn’t let Drake get as close as 38 from the 11:55 mark of the second half.

Iowa State’s next action is in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena, as the Cyclones take on Creighton and last year’s ISU coach Greg McDermott. The game tips off at 2 p.m.