AMES — Sparks flew, but stubbornly refused to take.
In short, Yale pushed Iowa State to the limit Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum — until the Cyclones finally tapped a precious, yet recently-hidden resource to escape with an 80-70 win before 12,548 fans.
“(Former coach) Larry Brown told me, our very first practice, ‘Fellas, I don’t coach energy, you bring energy,’” ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said of his Indiana Pacers playing days. “Our guys, for the most part, do that. It blows my mind when we don’t.”
Tuesday, the Cyclones (10-3) didn’t.
Not until the Bulldogs (4-10) led 50-41 with 12:51 left and ISU guard Tyrus McGee spurred a 17-5 surge that gave his team a 58-55 advantage with 8:39 left.
The Cyclones wouldn’t trail again, but needed a 7-0 run capped by McGee’s 3-point play with 3:55 left to effectively seal their 15th straight home win, which matches the fourth-longest streak in school history.
“We played together in the second half,” said ISU forward Will Clyburn, who scored a game-high 17 points, with 14 coming after the break. “We played Iowa State basketball. The first half wasn’t us.”
Hoiberg said the Cyclones were also sluggish early in their last game — a 76-61 triumph over Missouri-Kansas City.
That performance came on Dec. 19, prompting questions of rust formation during the nearly two week-long break from games.
Freshman forward Georges Niang quashed that talk, however.
“Everybody has a layoff,” said Niang, who matched McGee with 14 points off the bench. “I don’t see Kansas taking a break on anybody.”
The sixth-ranked Jayhawks certainly won’t be doing that next week.
The Cyclones open Big 12 Conference play Jan. 9 at Lawrence.
“I’m very disappointed in the way we played,” Hoiberg said. “If we play like this throughout conference play we may be done winning. It just can’t happen.”
Yale played efficiently from the start and used a 10-3 run to break a 12-12 tie in the first half.
The Bulldogs eventually led by as many as 12 points, while limiting ISU to 25.9 percent field goal shooting in the first half.
“They came out real aggressive, trying to beat us up,” Niang said. “They caught us off guard in the beginning, then we had to go back to the drawing board and get back at them.”
The Cyclones scored 53 second-half points and shot 50 percent.
They also committed just nine turnovers, their second-lowest total of the season.
“We showed what we’re capable of doing when we play the right way,” Hoiberg said.
That starts with energy.
It ends with execution.
“When adversity hits you, that’s when you have to play together,” Hoiberg said.