MILWAUKEE — Distracted? Just because half its eight-player rotation was from Wisconsin and three-eighths of it grew up here in Milwaukee?
Not this Iowa State basketball team. If anything, the Cyclones from Cheeseland insisted, being local guys made them more focused for their 84-73 NCAA tournament first-round win over Nevada at Bradley Center.
Onalaska’s Matt Thomas and sons of Milwaukee Darrell Bowie, Deonte Burton and Donovan Jackson combined for 47 points and lots of other good stuff.
Burton was Burton, a dunking, lobbing, driving, shot-blocking force of nature at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. How he’ll be able to outplay Purdue’s monstrous front-line players Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas in Saturday night’s second round (8:40 p.m., TBS) remains to be seen, but he’ll try.
“David and Goliath,” Burton said. “Big and small.”
Nevada wanted NO part of this Deonte Burton dunk. pic.twitter.com/g3KuHzqiHc
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 17, 2017
Thomas was Thomas, cashing three 3-pointers.
But Bowie and Jackson continue to be revelations. Bowie gave ISU more strong play as a backup forward, and Jackson was the team’s point guard to the rescue when Monte Morris, who had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, sat out from the 11:25 to the 6:16 marks of the second half, something we just haven’t seen in a meaningful game this season.
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That was partly because Morris got his third foul with 12:56 left, and partly because the Cyclones regained their footing with junior Jackson in the lineup. ISU’s lead was six points when Morris left, nine when he returned.
“Jackson is a really good point guard and he handled the pressure,” Burton said.
Both, along with Bowie and Thomas, claimed playing in front of family and friends made them more focused, not less.
Jackson said he had played in this 19,000-seat arena twice as a prep at Pius XI High School, saying when he was a sophomore his team played Thomas’ Onalaska squad when Thomas was a junior.
“He said that?” Thomas replied. “That was the state tournament in Madison.
“We won (38-31, with Thomas getting 14 points and 13 rebounds). He had goggles back then. I remember he hit a couple of corner 3s.”
Thomas had 13 points and Jackson 12 as teammates Thursday. Jackson made all four of his field goal tries and all four of his free throws.
Nevada, which trailed 40-27 at halftime, which ended with a lob from Burton to Solomon Young for a last-second dunk, cut the gap to 55-51 with 9:56 to go. But Burton, Thomas and Jackson combined for nine unanswered points, and the Wolf Pack never again got closer than seven points.
“It’s fun to play in front of friends and family,” Thomas said, “but at the same time, we locked it down. This is a business trip.”
As Nevada was trimming its deficit, Wolf Pack forward Cameron Oliver got in Bowie’s face with 12:22 left. The jawing was intense, and a double technical foul was the result.
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But instead of Bowie losing focus, he hit a turnaround jumper on Iowa State’s next possession.
“That was just two guys being competitive,” Bowie said. “It’s March. Each of us came out with a chip on our shoulder.”
Oliver seemed quite pleased with the double-technical getting called, as if his plan had come to fruition. Bowie showed no emotion about it.
“Monte Morris and Deonte Burton told me ‘Let’s not get talking much. Play our game.’"
The jumper, Bowie said, was “the perfect way to respond.”
There wasn’t an abundance of celebration from either the Cyclones or from Purdue after it pulled away to beat Vermont here Thursday night. They both expected to get to this matchup.
“We have to be tough,” Burton said, “because we’re small compared to them.”