WVU basketball: Niang lifts Cyclones to victory over Mountaineers
AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State's up-tempo offense finally found the gas pedal to start Wednesday's second half and used an 18-4 run to create just enough distance to withstand another West Virginia comeback and beat the Mountaineers, 69-67, before 13,148 at the Hilton Coliseum.
Yet it was far more complex and not nearly as compact for the Cyclones, who have now won 17 straight home games.
They led 56-38 with 9:04 remaining, but were outscored 29-13 the rest of the way and only escaped overtime when Will Clyburn's one assist of the game set up Georges Niang's game-winning layup with 2.5 seconds to go.
"Being down 18 really doesn't mean anything now that we came all the way back, but it would have been much better to finish and get a good win on the road," WVU guard Jabarie Hinds said.
Clyburn followed a game-tying 3 by Hinds with 11.5 seconds to go by dribbling up the court, spinning into the paint and slipping between WVU's Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray to find Niang all alone.
WVU got the ball to freshman Eron Harris at mid-court, but Harris couldn't get off a shot in a crowd and went to the floor as time expired and his coaches and teammates jumped and screamed.
"I saw the same thing you saw, the exact same thing you saw," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said.
Harris started for the first time in place of freshman Terry Henderson, who stayed home with a back injury. Harris was visibly upset on the court with the call, but wouldn't voice his displeasure.
"I'm more upset we were down in the first place," he said. "We should have gotten those stops. The end of the game depends on how you play at the beginning. The game depends on that. If we do what we're supposed to do earlier, we're never in that spot."
Hinds led all scorers with 20 points, his fourth straight game in double figures after just one in the first 12 games. Harris added a career-high 17 points and made 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Juwan Staten came off the bench after sitting out the second half against Texas and all of Saturday's home loss to Kansas State and had seven points, seven assists and five rebounds. Kevin Noreen had one point and 10 rebounds as WVU outrebounded the Big 12's leader in rebounding average and rebounding margin, 41-35.
Matt Humphrey, who hadn't played the past four games, added nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.
"It's just what I do," he said. "I can't control some of the things that happen, but when Coach calls on me and says it's time to play, that's what I can go in and do."
WVU (8-8, 1-3 Big 12) shot 41 percent in the game and 46.9 percent in the second half.
The Mountaineers made 9 of their final 11 3-point attempts. Eight of the final 10 baskets in the prolonged run were 3s.
"We changed lineups and tried to spread them and penetrate and get shots," Huggins said. "We played with one big. We played with the one big who tried to get a rebound."
Iowa State (12-4, 2-1) was led by Melvin Ejim's 16 points and 13 rebounds, but the conference's leading rebounder made three 3s after making 10 the first 15 games. Korie Lucious had 15 points and eight assists. Chris Babb and Clyburn both scored 11 points. The Cyclones, No. 5 nationally at 82.5 points per game, were held below 70 points for the first time all season.
They were up 29-26 at the half, but made 6 of 7 shots to start the second half and had nine unanswered points to build a 42-28 lead with 14:28 remaining. By then, the Mountaineers had called two timeouts to slow the Cyclones and made just one basket and committed four turnovers.
Clyburn's two free throws built the game's largest lead, 56-38, as the Mountaineers had missed 10 of their first 14 shots. One of the four makes was a 3 from Harris after WVU had missed its first 13 3-point shots in the game.
Huggins kept looking for help, summoning Aaron Brown and Humphrey from the depth of the bench. Neither had played since the home win against Radford on Dec. 22. Humphrey sparked the Mountaineers, who a week earlier came back from down 13 points in the second half on the road against Texas to win in overtime.
He made a pair of 3s to make it 56-47 before Harris scored off an Iowa State turnover. After trading scores, Babb made two free throws to go back up by nine before Harris made a 3 to make the score 60-54. Humphrey then forced a turnover with 3:46 to go and Harris made another 3.
"We were completely aware of the scoreboard and the time," Harris said. "We knew we had to get shots up and we knew we had to get stops and we weren't trying to take much time off the clock."
Clyburn missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Hinds missed everything on a wide-open 3 with a chance to tie the score with 2:59 to go. Lucious scored inside, but Noreen turned it over following his offensive rebound. Lucious was fouled and made both free throws for a 64-57 lead with 2:10 remaining.
Staten made a free throw before Harris and Henderson made 3s around two free throws by Babb and one by Lucious to make it 67-64 with 64 seconds to go. The Cyclones turned it over on a shot clock violation and Hinds jab-stepped and hopped back before tying the score 67-67 as his defender fell with 11.5 seconds to go.
WVU plays Saturday at Purdue. The 2 p.m. game in West Lafayette, Ind., will be televised by CBS.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.