NEW YORK — Iowa State forward and native New Yorker Dustin Hogue silenced the chatter.
It was a steely demeanor the Cyclone junior carried into — and out of — Friday’s NCAA tournament East regional semifinal matchup with Connecticut at hallowed Madison Square Garden.
“I’m kind of a laughing, joking person before a game,” Hogue said. “But I knew how serious this game was.”
And Hogue was seriously, uncommonly good representing the city of Yonkers and ISU, scoring a career high-busting 34 points that provided zero solace to assuage the hurt caused by the seventh-seeded Huskies’ 81-76 triumph.
Third-seeded ISU (28-8) played in its first Sweet 16 in 14 years — when Brooklyn native Jamaal Tinsley helped lead the Cyclones on a run to the Elite Eight.
Hogue — who went 15 of 19 from the field — tried to propel his team to at least the same rarified level, and thanks to another second-half comeback, hope remained until the final 20 seconds melted from the clock.
A Hogue tip-in made the score 74-69 with 27.6 second left and ISU trapped the Huskies guard Kevin Boatright near mid court.
The Cyclones’ Naz Long apparently tied up Boatright, but a foul was called to the dismay of ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg.
Boatright hit two free throws and the Cyclones’ season was effectively over.
“It could have changed the complexion of the game,” Hoiberg said. “Not to say we would have won it, but I thought he made a really good defensive play there.”
ISU trailed 49-32 after UConn’s DeAndre Daniels drilled a 3-pointer.
Layups refused to fall.
Not for the Cyclones, who had previously erased double-digit deficits to win eight times this season — including in last Sunday’s 85-83 triumph over North Carolina.
“I believed that we were going to come back and win it,” said Long, who scored seven straight ISU points to pull ISU to within five, at 70-65, with 1:35 left. “If you think for a second you’re going to lose facing any type of deficit, you lose. You quit. That’s not my character. That’s not the character of these guys.”
That’s not part of the Huskies’ make-up, either.
UConn calmly converted 11 of its final 12 foul shots after Long’s flourish cut the lead to under two possessions.
Daniels led UConn with 27 points and 10 rebounds and delivered the final four swishes from the line.
“This is it,” Daniels said. “I just want to win.”
Spoken like another DeAndre — ISU’s fifth-year senior who missed seven of nine foul shots but gutted out a stat line of 16 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
“I’m happy to be a Cyclone,” the Pittsburgh native and former Marshall star said. “I’m happy I came here for one year and and got to play with guys like (senior) Melvin (Ejim), (injured) Goerges (Niang) — everyone on this team. I love this team. I’ll never forget the journey we went on this year.”
Nor will Ejim, who finished his decorated four-year Cyclone career with seven points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve done such great things this year putting this program on the map,” said Ejim, who went 3 of 13 from the field. “Incredible stuff. Why would I let one loss where we didn’t play particularly well — I didn't play particularly well, eclipse all of that?”
And it won’t.
ISU re-entered the national discussion — and pledges not to fade from prominence next season and beyond.
“It’s a tough way to send (the seniors) out,” said Niang, who suffered a season-ending broken foot last weekend. “It hurts my heart, but we’re going to come back next year and prove everybody wrong.”
That’s how Hogue’s approached life as far back as he can remember.
His 34-point effort matched a single-game tournament Cyclones record shared by Dedric Willoughby and Lafester Rhodes.
It wasn’t enough, but he made monstrous noise as a busload of family and friends cheered him on at the Garden.“Having my family (here) game me a type of confidence I didn’t have before,” Hogue said. “I’m proud. Hopefully I didn’t let them down.”