SAN ANTONIO – Rarely does an 18-point victory produce such a negative reaction.
Iowa State's bid to make a deep NCAA Tournament run suffered a huge blow despite a 93-75 victory over No. 14 seed North Carolina Central here Friday night. Sophomore Georges Niang, who scored a team-high 24 points, has been lost with a fracture in his right foot.
Niang suffered the injury with just about 11 minutes remaining in the second half. Without Niang, the Cyclones' task of beating No. 6 seed North Carolina in Sunday's third round became even more difficult.
"There's a lot going through my mind," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said during his news conference. "Adversity hit us tonight and it hit us hard. I feel we're playing as well as anybody in the nation. We beat a very, very good team here. We were worried about this game. To do what we did in the second half, we moved the ball, it was flying around out there …
"You've got to look ahead. You can't sit here and cry about it."
Niang was hurt while on defense. He had switched to guard North Carolina Central's Jeremy Ingram, who finished with a game-high 28 points. Ingram drove past Niang and charged the Cyclones' Dustin Hogue. Hoiberg said someone stepped on Niang's right foot.
"That's a big loss for us," Iowa State's DeAndre Kane said. "You know, Georges is one of our main guys out there. He's our leader. When things aren't going right we always know we can count on Georges to make a play for us."
The third-seeded Cyclones (27-7) had yet another offensive display to put away the Eagles and end their 20-game winning streak. North Carolina Central's typical team goal is to hold the opponent to 40 percent shooting.
The Cyclones scorched the AT&T Center nets with 63.6 percent shooting and made 9-of-17 3-pointers.
"We shot 46 percent," North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton said. "So if you would have told me we were going to shoot 46% before the game, I would have assured you we would have won, because I'm that confident in our defensive abilities. But they make you pick your poison."
But Iowa State didn't confirm its victory until the second half and Niang was a big part of that. The Cyclones led 45-39 at halftime and the Eagles were trading baskets. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Iowa State hit nine of its first 13 shots and Niang had 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
When informed about Niang's injury, Moton grimaced.
"Man, I'm sorry to hear that," Moton said. "That kid is tremendous. I'm a huge fan. I'm a huge fan. That kid plays basketball the right way, and he's a match up nightmare. I think especially at this juncture in the season, I just think (losing a player like Niang) takes away from your core and your nucleus, but Fred's a wonderful coach and he'll find a way."
Iowa State has spent its season finding a way and it appeared that the Cyclones, coming off their victory in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship, were peaking. But the failure of a metatarsal bone turned the mood in a winning locker room somber.
"I think everybody steps up," Niang said, a pair of crutches nearby in mute testimony to the situation. These guys had my back since day one. Everybody is going to come in and step up and that's how I truly feel."
At 4:15 p.m. Sunday, Iowa State will face a North Carolina team that slipped past No. 11 seed Providence, 79-77. The Tar Heels, 11-7 at one point in their season, have won 13 of their last 15.
"We'll miss him but I believe in these guys," Hoiberg said. "I believe in the five guys we'll put on the floor and the guys who come off the bench. We've got a heck of a task in front of us competing against an extremely athletic team that does an incredible job on the glass.
"We have three guys who can dunk and their whole team can dunk. I know we will come out and compete on Sunday. We'll definitely give our best effort."