AMES, Iowa - Iowa State denied West Virginia its comeback and the Cyclones secured their payback.
Still stinging after a 25-point loss to the Mountaineers in Morgantown earlier this month that featured a WVU season-high 32-point lead, a pair of flagrant fouls and one ejection, No. 15 Iowa State unleashed a serious first-half run and some timely 3-pointers from Naz Long for a 83-66 win Wednesday before 14,383 at Hilton Coliseum.
"He had a game," WVU guard Eron Harris said of Long. "That was his game. He hit his shots and we could do nothing about it. I was in his face. Whoever was around him was in his face."
Long made 5 of 7 3-pointers, each at an important point early and later in the game, and had 15 points as one of four Iowa State players in double figures. Georges Niang scored a game-high 24 points and added seven rebounds and four assists. DeAndre Kane had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Dustin Hogue kicked in 15 points and nine rebounds.
Melvin Ejim, who entered as the Big 12's leading scorer, had just seven points -- more than 12 points below his average. He scored only six against WVU in the first game.
The Cyclones shot 50.8 percent, the third straight team to make more than half its shots against the Big 12's worst field-goal percentage defense. Iowa State outrebounded WVU 46-38 and had a 46-24 scoring edge in the paint. The Mountaineers have been outscored 130-50 in the paint the past three games.
"We don't have anyone to throw it to," Coach Bob Huggins said. "I said that in the beginning. That's nothing new."
Juwan Staten led WVU with 19 points and Harris, who was ejected after a Flagrant 2 foul on Iowa State's Monte Morris on Feb. 10, had 15 points. Harris was booed from the time the crowd heard his name in the player introductions to the last time he touched the ball, and he shot just 4-for-14. Remi Dibo made three 3-pointers and had 14 points as the Mountaineers played a second straight game without their third-leading scorer, Terry Henderson.
"I don't like to say 'if' a lot," Harris said, "but if we had him, we probably would have been in better shape."
WVU battled back to get as close as four points in the second half after trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half and 11 in the second. An array of 3-pointers kept the Cyclones in the lead. Long made 3s for leads of 51-42 and then 56-49. After the second, WVU hurried back on defense after Staten missed a layup and tried to find Iowa State's shooters, but Niang was left alone for another 3 and a 59-49 lead with 12:05 remaining.
Gary Browne made a 3 for WVU and Staten made a layup, but Niang scored inside and Kane took advantage of a defensive error that saw Kevin Noreen trying to guard him at the top of the key. He started to drive, which caused WVU's defense to react. That left Long open for another 3 and a 64-54 lead with 9:54 left to play. WVU got no closer than seven points the rest of the way and that lasted only a few seconds.
WVU shot just 35.8 percent after shooting 53.8 percent against the Cyclones in the previous game. Iowa State improved from 36.6 percent last time and kept alive its streak as the only team in the nation to score at least 70 points in every game.
"They were finishing more and making more shots than when we played them at our place," Harris said. "I think that was the reason they won. I think we pretty much gave then a pretty good fight in all the other categories. They'd score one and we'd score one. We just couldn't get any stops."
Iowa State sought to blow the game open with a potent and prolonged run in the first half. Harris hit a jumper at the 16:10 mark -- his only basket of the half -- and WVU took a 7-2 lead during a slow start for both teams that featured a stoppage after Noreen and Ejim were entangled and had to be separated by teammates and an official. Niang got the Cyclones going with a score to start a 26-7 run over the next 7:59 that included a technical foul against Huggins after Harris lost the ball amid contact on a drive.
Niang made the two free throws for a 24-14 lead. It marked the ninth time and the third straight game WVU has trailed by 10 points or more in a game. The Mountaineers have yet to win one of those games. Hogue capped the run with back-to-back layups before Harris finally snapped the spell with free throws.
The Cyclones were 10-for-18 and Long made a pair of 3s in transition in the run, the first to put his side ahead 14-11. Iowa State never trailed again. WVU was 3-for-15 and missed 6 of 7 3-point shots.
WVU's Devin Williams ended a stretch of 6:10 without a basket and Staten then wrapped scores around another Williams basket to get WVU close at 30-24. Niang then missed two free throws, but somehow grabbed his rebound and scored before Harris missed a forced shot and Kane scored to go back up by 10. A Kane 3 seemed to get the Cyclones out of trouble with a 37-26 lead with 2:40 left in the half, but WVU scored the next seven points before Niang got matched up on Staten and scored inside for a 39-33 halftime lead.
Iowa State entered the game 16-0 when it lead at the half this season. The Mountaineers were 1-8 and still haven't made up more than a seven-point deficit to win a game.
"We never made that next step to be able to take that lead and play from there," Dibo said. "If you work the whole game trailing and trying to get back and tie the game or take a lead, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage. It means you're working hard all game to get there. At this level, it takes extra work to get the lead and make that next step."
The Mountaineers (15-13, 7-8) entered the game in sixth place in the Big 12 standings and one game ahead of Baylor (18-10, 6-9), which lost at Texas. The top six teams in the final standings are off on the first day of next month's conference tournament. WVU nevertheless lost its third straight game, the second three-game losing streak this season. Huggins had three total his first six seasons at his alma mater, though two were last season and one covered the final seven games of the season, the longest losing streak of Huggins' career.
WVU is now below .500 in Big 12 play for the first time since Jan. 18, the low point of the season with a 78-56 loss at Kansas State. That was the last of three straight losses to follow a 2-0 start in the conference. The Mountaineers can beat TCU (9-18, 0-15) at home Saturday to avoid a four-game losing streak, which would match the second longest streak of Huggins' career. His Akron team lost four in a row in January 1985.
With their hopes for an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament now attached to an ambitious finish to the season and then a run in the conference tournament, the Mountaineers must also be mindful of their NIT qualifications. They follow the home game against the Horned Frogs with a game at Oklahoma and the regular-season finale at home against No. 5 Kansas.
Of the last 256 teams in the NIT, only three have been fewer than two games above .500.
On the other hand, Iowa State (22-5, 10-5) finished February 7-1, the most wins the school has ever had in the shortest month, and clinched a third straight season with at least 10 conference wins, something the school hadn't done before.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.
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