AMES —Texas coach Rick Barnes’ team has slipped into a bad place.
The Longhorns — who stand 0-3 in the Big 12 after Saturday’s 82-62 shellacking by Iowa State — aren’t playing with enough effort or consistency, he said, to win games.
The Cyclones showed Barnes something else.
“I think they’re a better team this year than they were a year ago,” said Barnes, whose team lost before a sellout crowd of 14,376 at Hilton Coliseum. “I just like the way they flow. They do a nice job, they share the ball, they do a lot of great things.”
One of those is shooting.
ISU (11-4, 1-1) drained 11 of 26 3-point attempts, or 42.3 percent — a full 20 percent above what NCAA-leading Texas was yielding.
Actually, the Longhorns (8-8, 0-3) entered the game with the NCAA’s top field goal percentage defense, period, allowing 33.6 percent shooting.
“I felt like we had a great flow going,” said Cyclone point guard Korie Lucious, who narrowly missed a double-double for the second time this season with 10 points and nine assists. “It just worked out for us.”
It certainly did for freshman forward Georges Niang, who delivered a personal-best 18 points in his second career start.
He scored six of those points in a game-closing 11-2 run that turned an 11-point lead into ISU’s first 20-point conference win since early last season.
“He’s as efficient a player as you’re going to see,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, who last season guided the Cyclones to their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005. “He goes out there and scores 18 points on seven shots. He finishes over bigger players. He can step out and knock down a shot. He’s getting himself to the free throw line.”
Niang needs to work on one thing, though.
“I feel bad because I missed a layup that didn’t give Korie his 10th assist,” Niang said. “Maybe I’ll make the next 10.”
All is forgiven — for Niang and repeat offender Melvin Ejim.
“Melvin did it for a second time,” Lucious said, smiling. “But I’ve still got confidence in him.”
Ejim did other things, as usual, grabbing eight of his game-high 10 rebounds in the second half.
“He makes all the effort plays,” Hoiberg said of the Big 12’s leading rebound.
That’s been a quality Barnes has found sorely lacking in his team.
It was one of the reasons he played leading scorer Sheldon McClellan precisely one minute.
“Where we are, it’s obvious it’s not working, because this is not what we’re about,” said Barnes, whose team’s previous conference losses — like Iowa State’s — came in overtime. “We’ve got to get guys that are gonna compete every single possessions and finish possessions. And we’re gonna get it. Someway, somehow, we’re gonna get it.”
They didn’t Saturday.
ISU did — and from a wide-ranging group that produced 18 assists to a season-low five turnovers.
Forward Will Clyburn notched 16 points, nine rebounds and a season-high five assists.
Percy Gibson, whom Niang replaced in the starting lineup, grabbed four offensive rebounds in 13 minutes.
Tyrus McGee drilled 4 of his 8 3-point attempts and scored 15 points in 17 minutes.
“He’s got that Vinnie Johnson microwave-type role,” Hoiberg said.
It’s needed if ISU is to live up to Barnes’ lofty assessment.
“That’s a heck of a compliment coming from a great coach,” Hoiberg said. “I thought going into this season we’d have a chance. We’re starting to see who we can be.”