Georgia St.-Iowa St. Preview
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg believes his squad's nonconference schedule should help provide solid preparation for the eventual rigors of the Big 12 slate and beyond.
Georges Niang and Bryce Dejean-Jones appear ready to lead the 14th-ranked Cyclones through those early tests.
Iowa State seeks its 22nd consecutive nonconference home victory Monday night when it takes on talented Georgia State in the second game of the Hall of Fame Classic.
The Cyclones are in the midst of a challenging stretch to open the season, taking on much-improved Alabama and an Arkansas team that won 22 games last season after they face Georgia State, which won 25 games in 2013-14. Iowa State wraps up the Hall of Fame Classic against the Crimson Tide next week in Kansas City.
"I think it's going to be good (for us)," Hoiberg said. "Our next game is obviously against an extremely talented team that won every (conference) game it played until the conference tournament. We'll be ready."
Hoiberg's squad geared up to face the defending regular-season Sun Belt champions with a 93-82 win over Oakland on Friday.
Expected to become the No. 1 scoring option following the departure of stars Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Niang lived up to that billing with a career-high 30 points along with nine rebounds and five assists.
The junior forward became the 31st Iowa State player to top 1,000 points while putting up the school's highest total in an opener since Curtis Stinson had 35 in November 2005.
"It's cool to score 1,000 points," said Niang, who averaged 16.7 last season. "I mean, it's a minor accomplishment (compared) to what I want to do with this team."
Dejean-Jones, a tranfer from UNLV and the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, added 20 points and 11 rebounds in his Iowa State debut. Dustin Hogue had 15 points and Monte Morris had 14 for the Cyclones, who committed just eight turnovers.
"He's so athletic," Hoiberg said of Dejean-Jones. "He's so gifted. We didn't run a lot for Bryce. He just found a way to go out and get it on his natural God-given ability."
Hoiberg would like to see some improvement on defense after the Cyclones allowed the Golden Grizzlies to shoot 51.8 percent. That could be difficult against a Georgia State team that had a 62.5 field-goal percentage and made 13 of 25 from 3-point range in Friday's 115-55 win over Tennessee Temple.
Ryan Harrow finished with 25 points, while R.J. Hunter scored 24 and hit five 3-pointers. Hunter was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year after averaging a team-high 18.3 points in 2013-14.
"We have to prepare for one of the best backcourts in all of the country," Hoiberg said. "Those two guys are excellent players and we're going to have to do a good job on them."
Iowa State will be without Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader, who conclude two-game suspensions after being arrested for drunk driving in the offseason. Jameel McKay can't play until Dec. 20 after leaving Marquette in his first semester there.
The Cyclones have won 39 of 41 home games and haven't lost to a nonconference opponent in Ames since Nov. 30, 2011.
The Panthers, who have never faced Iowa State, have lost seven straight by an average of 22.0 points versus ranked foes.