Iowa St.-Boise St. Preview
Iowa State's talented frontcourt isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and another big performance could lead to the best start in program history.
Boise State's Anthony Drmic, meanwhile, is on a scoring surge of his own.
The No. 14 Cyclones will look to remain undefeated with a victory over the Broncos on Christmas Day in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
Sophomore forward Georges Niang had 22 points in Sunday's 79-67 win over George Mason before scoring 15 of his 22 in the second half of Iowa State's 83-60 victory over Akron in the tournament semifinals the next day.
With the win, the Cyclones (10-0) matched the 1996-97 team for the school's best start to a season. That squad eventually reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, where it lost a 74-73 thriller to UCLA in overtime on a layup in the closing seconds.
Niang went 7 of 11 from the field against Akron - including 4 of 5 from 3-point range - and added four assists for Iowa State, which shot a season-best 53.6 percent. He has scored 22.5 per game while shooting 55.4 percent with eight 3-pointers and nine steals over his last four.
"Niang is playing some of his best basketball right now," said senior guard DeAndre Kane, who had 15 points, 11 boards and five assists Monday. "He's really knocking down shots."
Dustin Hogue has a combined 35 points and 15 rebounds over the first two rounds of the tournament, while fellow forward Melvin Ejim had his second straight double-double with 21 points and 12 boards against the Zips.
Ejim has averaged 19.8 points and 9.3 boards while shooting 57.1 percent - including 8 of 16 from beyond the arc - over his last four contests.
"He just goes out there and does it for the team," said coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team ranks fourth in the nation with 88.9 points per game. "It was just a heck of a stat line for him ... hopefully, he can have another big game on Wednesday."
Iowa State limited Akron to 37.5 percent shooting, an effort it hopes to build on against Drmic (19.8 points per game) and Boise State (10-2) in the final. The Cyclones had given up 77.0 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting over their previous three.
"Defensively, we definitely took a step in the right direction," Hoiberg said. "We were covering for each other and our rotations were crisp."
Iowa State, however, could have its hands full against the Broncos, who rank 19th nationally with 83.8 points per game.
Drmic scored 30 points in Monday's 80-54 semifinal win over South Carolina. A day earlier, his 3-pointer from the left wing with 59 seconds left helped Boise State pull out a 62-61 victory over Hawaii in the opener.
Drmic has gone 17 for 29 from the field with five 3-pointers to lead the tourney with 51 points. He needs to score 29 against the Cyclones to eclipse the tournament record of 79 set by Washington State's Klay Thompson in 2010.
Following an 8-0 start, Boise State dropped consecutive games to No. 18 Kentucky and Saint Mary's before getting back on track in Hawaii.
The Broncos, though, have lost 12 of 13 versus ranked opponents, including the 70-55 loss in Lexington on Dec. 10. They've never faced the Cyclones.