AMES — It wasn’t always pretty for Iowa State men’s basketball Tuesday but the Cyclones got the job done.
Iowa State beat Northern Illinois 70-52 at Hilton Coliseum despite shooting 3 of 25 from 3-point range.
The Cyclones were led by Rasir Bolton and Solomon Young on offense.
Bolton had 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He shot 7 for 9 from inside the arc and drew four and-1 opportunities, converting three of them.
Bolton said Iowa State got good looks, they just refused to go in.
“We try to get him to where he’s going downhill a little bit,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. “I thought he did a great job of getting downhill and he was able to finish. And at some point, like he was joking about, he’ll make some 3s. He had some open ones.
“Bolton is the guy that can get downhill. Tyrese can get there because he can slither his way down there, but Bolton can get there athletically. The other way we can get paint touches is by throwing the ball inside.”
Young had 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting thanks to those paint touches.
Iowa State was trailing 34-31 at halftime, shooting just 34 percent. Prohm wanted his team to focus on defense and made it a point of emphasis at halftime to get the ball inside, whether that was guys posting up or driving the lane.
“Our energy and sense of urgency was the difference,” Bolton said. “In the first half we were focused on the offensive side of the ball but we weren’t making shots all night, so we decided to lock in on defense and try to get transition layups and dunks. I think that really boosted our energy and confidence and we kept playing defense from there on out.”
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Northern Illinois shot just 18 percent from the field in the second half. Eugene German had 17 points in the first half and finished with 24 on inefficient 8-of-27 shooting.
Iowa State center George had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and four rebounds coming off the bench. But his biggest impact came on defense ,where he blocked four shots and got one steal in 13 minutes of play.
“George, when he’s in the game, he provides a huge presence around the basket,” Prohm said. “All great defenses in the halfcourt usually have a shot blocker at the rim because he can make up for so many mistakes. He’s been really good the last couple of games.”
Still, shooting below the outside temperature on a 17-degree day from 3-point range is not a recipe for success.
Freshman Caleb Grill made two 3s in the final minutes of the game to “boost” Iowa State’s percentage. Before that, the Cyclones were just 1 of 23.
“When I chart them tonight, I bet out of the 25 we took, two-thirds of them were good looks,” Prohm said. “A lot of them, the ball was dangling around the rim and popped out. We need to be in the high 30s to be a good offensive team.”
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