Niang’s near-perfect game keeps No. 4 Cyclones perfect vs. Buffalo

Georges Niang dominated the boards on Monday night, saving his team from disaster.

Reese Strickland/Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

AMES, Iowa

Iowa State’s Georges Niang played the most complete game of his career, helping the fourth-ranked Cyclones shake off some sluggish play and eventually roll past Buffalo 84-63 on Monday night.

Niang’s first double-double of the season — 31 points and 12 rebounds — was crucial for the Cyclones (7-0), who let the Bulls get within 47-46 early in the second half.

Iowa State responded with an 11-0 run and a late closing push to remain one of the nation’s last unbeaten teams.

"It’s games like this when you need him to step up," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said of Niang. "He’s terrific. Tough mismatch guy."

READ REID ON COLLEGE HOOPS

Jarryn Skeete led Buffalo (4-5) with 16 points. The loss capped a brutal three-day stretch for the Bulls, who lost at No. 8 Duke 82-59 on Saturday.

This was Iowa State’s final tuneup for Thursday’s home game against Iowa, a team the Cyclones revel in beating as much as anyone other than Kansas.

Iowa State looked like it was looking ahead for a while.

Buffalo nearly made the Cyclones pay for their poor play.

The Bulls kept it interesting at the start of both halves. But Niang sandwiched two 3s around one by Hallice Cooke, and Abdel Nader’s three-point play gave the Cyclones their first double-digit lead, 27-16.

Still, Iowa State couldn’t find much rhythm in the first half, shooting just 34 percent and committing six turnovers. Skeete then opened the second half with three straights 3s before the Cyclones got untracked.

They did so behind Niang, whose steady play helped Iowa State keep the Bulls from getting close enough to make a late run at an upset.

"That’s not a bad team. We were struggling a little bit on defense, giving them a bunch of points late in the shot clock," Niang said. "I think our flow wasn’t that great on the offensive end."

Jameel McKay finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Monte Morris had 12 points with 10 assists for the Cyclones.

TIP-INS

LATEST FROM COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Buffalo: The Bulls might have made things even closer had they not shot just 8 of 30 from 3-point range. Buffalo shot 35 percent from the field overall. … Buffalo has one more tough road game left, at VCU on Dec. 22, before it starts Mid-American Conference play.

Iowa State: The Cyclones went on a 15-0 run midway through the first half. … Reserve G Matt Thomas grabbed six rebounds. … Iowa State’s backcourt fought foul trouble, with Thomas and Morris committing three each.

STAR POWER

Niang leaned heavily on the versatility that earned him preseason first-team All-America honors. In addition to his prowess on 3s, Niang hit a number of bank shots from tough angles, including one immediately after he forced Blake Hamilton into missing a 2-footer without fouling him. Niang later stole an inbounds pass to keep Iowa State’s crucial run alive. "As soon as I got a couple going, Coach was calling my number and Monte was finding me," Niang said.

COURTSIDE

Morris was one of the main culprits in Iowa State’s sluggish start. Ever the superstitious player, Morris changed shoes at halftime to change his luck. It worked, as Morris had all of his points and eight of his assists in the second half. "I just felt more comfortable in these low-tops. I’ll give those other shoes a go later in the season."

UP NEXT

Buffalo hosts Binghamton on Saturday.

Iowa State hosts Iowa on Thursday.