Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off just their second loss of the season, the 17th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones open up Big 12 Conference play on Tuesday night with a meeting against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Hilton Coliseum.
Up until the end of the 2014 calendar year, the Cyclones had just a single loss on the schedule, a 72-63 setback versus Maryland during the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic in Des Moines, Iowa. The squad was perfect through seven December outings, but then on Saturday the Cyclones were tripped up by South Carolina, 64-60, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys also have a couple of defeats on the campaign and they too came against the very same competition. During the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, OSU was blown away by the Gamecocks on the road, 75-49, a month ago and then four days before Christmas the program was upended up by the Terrapins, 73-64, at home. Since the loss to Maryland, Oklahoma State has responded with consecutive wins over Missouri and Kansas State in order to reach double-digit victories.
The Cowboys, already 1-0 in conference play, are ahead in the all-time series by a count of 63-56, although Iowa State owns a 36-14 edge in the games played in Ames. The Cyclones swept the season series last season with a 98-97 triple- overtime thriller in Oklahoma, the first victory for ISU on the road in the series since 1988, as well as an 85-81 overtime win at home.
Iowa State is 7-0 in Ames this season.
After trailing South Carolina by 12 points in the first half, the Cyclones managed to battle back and take a two-point advantage with 6:29 to play in regulation, but the lead was short-lived and eventually ISU was faced with its seven-game win streak coming to an end. Jameel McKay and Dustin Hogue both tallied 15 points and six rebounds, followed by Monte Morris and Georges Niang with 10 points apiece, the latter clearing eight boards in the losing effort as well.
The Cyclones hurt themselves in a variety of ways, from shooting just 1-of-18 behind the 3-point line, to 19-of-33 at the free-throw line and losing possession 13 times, and yet the squad could not do enough to make the Gamecocks pay for their 20 turnovers and 2-of-10 accuracy beyond the arc.
As one of the higher-scoring programs in the nation, producing 82.4 ppg, the Cyclones are spreading the wealth as well as any team. There's a list of six players scoring in double figures for the unit, led by Niang with 15.6 ppg, thanks to his 84.2 percent accuracy at the charity stripe. Niang is also second on the team with 46 assists, many of which have surely gone to Bryce Dejean-Jones (14.1 ppg), Naz Long (13.3 ppg), Hogue (11.3 ppg), McKay (11.0 ppg and Morris (10.3 ppg).
The Cowboys trailed by two points at the break against visiting Kansas State in the conference opener, but that was before OSU turned up the heat on defense and held the Wildcats to a mere seven field goals and 18 total points in the second half of a double-digit win. Phil Forte accounted for a game-high 20 points, Le'Bryan Nash checked in with 11 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, while Jeff Newberry and Anthony Hickey both tallied 10 points for the hosts.
Forte, the latest OSU player to record 1,000 career points, is tied for the team scoring lead with Nash at 17.3 ppg. Nash focuses his efforts in the paint where he is being credited with 6.5 rpg, while Forte stands as one of the nation's leaders in steals with 2.8 thefts per contest. Also making a strong effort at the defensive end of the floor for the Cowboys is Hickey (9.9 ppg) who has 28 steals, while also placing first on the unit with 40 assists.