By Rob Gray
AMES — So much for Iowa State’s recent string of slow starts.
The No. 13 Cyclones swiftly dominated Northern Illinois from start to finish Tuesday, cruising to a 99-63 win before a sellout crowd of 14,384 at Hilton Coliseum.
“We just wanted to push the tempo and get guys open looks and guys knocked down shots,” said ISU point guard DeAndre Kane, who flirted with a triple-double again with 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. “We had a lot of assists today and not much turnovers.”
To be precise, the Cyclones (12-0) dished out 28 assists to just five turnovers.
ISU scored 55 first-half points and as usual, six players scored in double figures, led by Melvin Ejim and Naz Long with 17 points apiece.
“That’s Johnny Orr basketball,” Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg said he spent most of Tuesday crying — but sometimes smiling while recalling fond memories — as he dealt with the death of Orr, his former coach.
Orr was 86.
He was ISU’s all-time winningest coach and a mentor, father figure and friend to Hoiberg.
“You can’t throw around the word legend and icon very often, but Johnny certainly fits that,” Hoiberg said.
And Orr had shared his impression of Hoiberg’s 2013-14 Cyclones after last month’s 77-70 win over Michigan – where he is also the all-time winningest coach.
“He said, ‘Freddie, you’ve got a tough team,’” Hoiberg said. “That was great to hear. You love hearing that about your team. That was one of the last conversations I had with coach Orr.”
Hoiberg spoke to his team about what Orr meant to ISU and college basketball in general before Tuesday’s game.
He shared how he was feeling, too.
“I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to need you today,’” Hoiberg said. “This is going to be a rough one for me to get through,’ and they did that for us. And they did that for him.”
Hoiberg broke down at times in his pre-game talk, but his players got the message.
“It was a real emotional time,” said Long, who made four of ISU’s 11 3-pointers. “We all felt it.”
The Cyclones shot 61.8 percent from the field in the first half and 55.2 in the second.
They led by as many as 36 points while holding the Huskies (5-6) to 32 percent shooting.“I knew we’d come out and play well,” Hoiberg said. “I really talked about playing 40 minutes and coming out and getting off to a great start and they did that.”