SAN ANTONIO — Got ticket requests?
Iowa State assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih and Cyclone forward Dustin Hogue certainly do.
They’re heading home — Abdelmassih hails from Brooklyn, Hogue is from Yonkers — for ninth-ranked ISU’s Sweet 16 NCAA tournament matchup at 6:27 p.m. Friday against seventh-seeded UConn in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
Friends and family of Abdelmassih began lighting up his mobile phone shortly after the Cyclones’ comeback 85-83 win over sixth-seeded North Carolina in the round of 32 at the AT&T Center.
And he couldn’t be happier — logistics aside.
“Best place in the world, man,” Abdelmassih said. “I’m glad all the Iowa people get to experience the best city in the world, that’s for sure.”
Abdelmassih served as a student manager for St. John’s University from 2004-07.
The Red Storm play home games in the Garden.
Abdelmassih figures he’s seen a minimum 200 games play out in the storied building — not to mention concerts and other high-profile events.
“There’s no better venue in the whole world to play basketball,” Abdelmassih said. “It’s called the world’s most famous arena for a reason.”
Hogue was so excited at the mere possibility of playing in the Garden in front of friends and family — as well as many who had discounted his dream of playing Division I basketball, he buried it under the one-game-at-a-time routine.
“I tried to humble myself before the game so I could stay focused,” said Hogue, who had 14 points and seven rebounds in Sunday’s win.”
Now that the dream’s fully excavated, Hogue can smile.
“Oh yeah, yeah,” Hogue said. “That’s all I can think about now.”
That and trying to beat Shabazz Napier-led UConn, which has won seven straight games against teams not named Louisville.
“It’s just big time,” said ISU reserve guard Matt Thomas, who had a 3-pointer and a steal against the Tar Heels. “We’re really excited about this opportunity.”
None more that Hogue and Abdelmassih, no matter the number of friends who pop up suddenly, looking for seats.
“The moment selection Sunday happened, we all looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to the Garden,’” Abdelmassih said. “And there you go: We’re there.”
EDOZIE STARTS: Sunday’s lineup sheet needed a late revision. ISU decided to go big early, starting 6-9 junior Daniel Edozie instead of 6-4 shooting guard Naz Long in place of star forward Georges Niang, who’s out with a broken foot.
Edozie collected four rebounds in 16 minutes — and looks to contribute more against UConn.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Edozie said. “There’s going to be a lot of mental focus that we’ll have to use.”
TO THE VICTORS GO … DOMINOS?: About 20 pizza boxes were stacked on a table in the Cyclones’ locker room after Sunday’s win. The game’s star, DeAndre Kane, was so hungry at first he declined interviews — a common tactic lately, but then he simply ate while he spoke.“It feels good,” Kane said between bites. “Eating pizza. MSG — the best arena in America. We get to go to Matty’s home town, Dustin’s home town. It feels good.”