SAN ANTONIO — At first Iowa State forward Georges Niang thought his right ankle/foot simply had cramped up.
He came out of Friday’s 93-75 second-round NCAA tournament win over North Carolina Central after stepping on and rolling over the top of teammate Dustin Hogue’s foot with 10:55 left, but went back in and made two more shots.
“It started throbbing and I thought the lead was significant, so I really didn’t have to do much at that point and I came out of the game,” said Niang, who wore an immobilizing boot Saturday and faces surgery on a broken foot and a minimum six-week recovery window. “They wanted me to go back and see what was wrong and that’s when they found it was broken.”
Niang went back for X-rays with less than eight minutes left.
News began circulating via social media about the break — and eventually spread through the otherwise joy-filled locker room.
“When I found out I was heartbroken,” teammate and roommate Naz Long said. “I feel for him. I broke my foot before coming to Iowa State and I felt like my world was done. But if there’s anybody that’s going to come back stronger it’s going to be Georges. He works his (tail) off, man. He’ll come back stronger and he’s going to be the biggest cheerleader.”
And extra assistant coach, too?
“He’s a great mind,” the Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim said. “I guarantee you after (his playing career is) over he’s going to be a great coach.”
As for the cheerleading part, Niang had a joke ready for that.
“Actually, I went down to the Hard Rock Cafe,” said Niang, who scored a team-best 24 points Friday. “They were selling pom-poms. I got myself a pair."
Niang’s serious when it counts.
“We’ve battled through adversity this whole year,” he said. “This is just a little bump in the road. We can handle anything that comes our way. This is just how tough we are. I’m excited for us to get out here and go through North Carolina’s stuff and play them tomorrow.”
ONE UP, ONE DOWN: North Carolina Coach Roy Williams is bullish on Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg.
His Tar Heels’ defense lately?
Not so much.
Williams — who called Hoiberg his favorite player to coach against while he spent 15 seasons at Kansas — has seen opponents shoot 50 percent or better in three straight games.“We’ve got to bother the shots more,” Williams said. “It is a big-time concern.”