5 takeaways from Iowa State’s first round win against Iona

Redshirt senior Jameel McKay scored five points in the first period against Iona at the NCAA Tournament in Denver on March 17. McKay transferred to Iowa State from Marquette after the fall semester of 2013.

Chris Wolff

DENVER — Iowa State avoided another first-round upset in the NCAA tournament by beating Iona 94-81.

Winning in the NCAA tournament always feels good, Georges Niang said. But after being a trendy upset pick by plenty of national analysts, this one felt a little better.

Here are five takeaways from the win:

Avoiding upset

After falling to UAB in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, Iowa State was on upset alert this season. Iona beating Iowa State became a popular upset pick by media organizations and analysts.

That’s the kind of thing that could get on a guy’s nerves. 

“It was just eating me up with people being like, ‘They’re going to get upset,'” Niang said. “I felt like every time I turned on the TV, like Scott Van Pelt last night before I go to bed, he’s talking to Jeff Goodman about how we’re going to get upset. It’s like A.J. English, A.J. English, A.J. English. Well what about the Iowa State Cyclones? So I’m glad we can put that to bed and can move on.”

Niang takeover

Like he has so many times before, Niang led the way for Iowa State. The senior scored 28 points, 18 of which came in the second half. 

Niang struggled in the first half, missing a number of shots from point blank range. He got hot in the second half and never looked back.

“Once I got a rhythm going, I felt like there was no turning back,” Niang said.

Balanced scoring

Niang led the way, but he got plenty of help from his fellow Cyclones. All five starters reached double-figures in scoring. 

Monté Morris scored 20 points, Abdel Nader pitched in 19 points, Matt Thomas had 14 and Jameel McKay had 11 points.

The starters scored 92 of Iowa State’s 94 points.

“We like the matchups with our starting five,” Niang said. “I think they got into a good groove early in the game. This game was so different, getting up and down. It was really a track meet. We really had to roll with who was cooking early.”

Morris injured no more?

Morris has been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury the last few weeks, but you sure couldn’t tell on Thursday.

The junior point guard scored 20 points and dished out eight assists in the win against Iona, while playing 37 minutes.

“The shoulder felt great,” Morris said. “I take my hat off to Vic Miller, our [team doctor]. We got a great training staff. They did everything for me these past weeks get me back feeling good. I think yesterday in practice let me know mentally that I will be able to shoot the ball at an efficient rate.”

Looking ahead

Next up, Iowa State will play Arkansas Little Rock in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Little Rock, a 12-seed, beat Purdue 85-83 in double overtime in it’s opening game.

Little Rock went on a 10-0 run near the end of regulation to get back into the game, and then hit a game-tying three to send it into overtime. They then survived the first overtime, and won the late-game free throw battle to give them the win. 

Little Rock has now won 30 games this season, including wins over Tulsa, UT Arlington and Louisiana-Monroe in the Sun Belt Tournament Championship. 

The time for Saturday’s game has yet to be determined.