McKay’s big night inside pushes Cyclones past NDSU after Niang injury scare

Iowa State senior forward Georges Niang goes down with what was thought to be a knee injury during the game against North Dakota State University. In a later press conference, Niang stated that it was actually just a charlie horse. “I probably overreacted a bit.” 

Ryan Young

Recently hired football coach Matt Campbell walked off the court during the under-eight media timeout in the first half to a thunderous round of applause after addressing the nearly sold-out crowd at Hilton Coliseum.

Campbell went over to the stands and started taking selfies with students. Hilton Magic was alive and well — there was no need for any concern.

Then, suddenly, there was silence.

It was as if every fan in the arena was suddenly gone. Had a pin dropped on the court, it would have been audible from every corner of the coliseum.

Georges Niang was down. Hilton Coliseum had come to a standstill.

“I was just scared at first,” Niang said. “We banged knee to knee, and I just didn’t know what to think. I really couldn’t feel what was going on.”

Niang was helped up and limped off of the court directly to the locker room. Minutes later, he was back on the bench. Not long after, he was back in the game.

It was just a small contusion in his right thigh. But it was enough.

“You could hear it,” said Naz Mitrou-Long. “Everyone went silent because you’re just worried. That’s one of our best players, if not our best player. When he goes down, it’s tough. It’s a scary sight to see.”

Shortly after Niang left the game, North Dakota State (4-2, 0-0 Summit League) was able to tie it up 27-27. No. 5 Iowa State (6-0, 0-0 Big 12) mustered a quick 9-0 run to close out the half, though, heading into the locker room up 36-30.

Yet the Bison wouldn’t disappear in the second half, sticking around through the first several minutes — until center Jameel McKay had something to say about it.

McKay finished the game with a career-high 19 rebounds, the most by a Cyclone since 2005. His presence inside, along with his 15 points, was enough to push the Cyclones comfortably ahead of North Dakota State.

“19 rebounds, 15 points and three blocks — that’s pretty good,” said head coach Steve Prohm. “Jameel’s terrific. Everybody knows what he means to our team. I said it the other day, he’s capable of getting 18, 19 rebounds … There’s nobody else in the country rebounding at that level.”

McKay, who nearly had his 20th rebound in the final minutes of the game, credits his teammates for their help in his big night inside. Without their help, he said, the outcome would have been much different.

“My teammates helped me out, boxing their [men] out and just leaving me one-on-one to get the rebound, so I’m happy because of that,” McKay said. “It was just a great overall team win.”

The Cyclones extended their lead quickly in the latter portion of the second half, going on multiple runs. By the end of their 84-64 win, one wouldn’t have been able to tell that the Cyclones struggled through the first 30 minutes of the game.

That, Prohm said, can be attributed to team defense.

“We’ve got such a good offensive ability to score to where if we can continue to get stops even on nights where we’re struggling like we were at times offensively against this team … we can finally hit you,” Prohm said.

As for Niang, the senior finished with 15 points — 13 of which came in the second half — and six rebounds. After the game, Niang was joking around with teammates as usual.

He’s good to go.

“I just got a charley horse,” Niang said. “I probably overreacted a little bit, but I was seriously in pain. I’m good, I’m healthy. I’ll be ready to go next time we practice.”

And as for Prohm and the rest of the team, they’re just happy they didn’t lose one of their best players.

“I got sad instantly,” McKay said. “I’m just happy he’s alright. He’s the heart and soul of our team, and he’s the best player in the country. We need him every night.”