DAYTON, Ohio — The scouting report on Iowa State was that the Cyclones could shoot.
Turns out, they can do a whole lot more.
Freshman forward Georges Niang matched a season high with 19 points and Iowa State, showing there’s not just 3-pointers in its arsenal, dismantled Notre Dame 76-58 on Friday night in the NCAA tournament.
“I’m so proud of the guys, the way they came out right from the beginning of the game. We executed our game plan perfectly,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we shared the ball. I thought our spacing was very good. And we got around the rim much better in the second half. It was nice to be able to pull away at the end to get our guys in there.”
The 10th-seeded Cyclones (23-11) will play No. 2 seed Ohio State on Sunday. The Buckeyes advanced with a 95-70 thrashing of Iona.
Iowa State led the nation in 3-pointers this season, but with Niang posting up down low, the Cyclones were just as effective from short range in ousting the Fighting Irish (25-10), who played their final game as a member of the Big East and will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Melvin Ejim added 17 points for Iowa State, which shot better than 70 percent for much of the second half.
Tom Knight scored 14 to lead the Fighting Irish, who walked off the floor looking as sickly green as the trim on their uniforms.
Iowa State made 12 of 14 shots to open the second half, taking any possible drama out of just the second matchup between the Midwest schools, and first since 1979.
Notre Dame must be hoping it won’t see the Cyclones for another 34 years.
These guys from Ames can shoot the lights out.
The Cyclones made a school-record 325 3-pointers this season and came in averaging nearly 10 per game. They finished with nine, and it was a 3 from the wing by Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious with 11:22 left that put Iowa State ahead by 20 and essentially set up a third-round date between the States — Ohio and Iowa.
“That’s going to be great,” Niang said. “We’re playing them in Ohio. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and it’s going to be a great game.”
Moments later, Tyrus McGee drilled another 3-pointer to make it 66-42, sending fans scurrying toward the exits after the fourth game at sold-out Dayton Arena.
Hoiberg, who was never afraid to shoot as a star with the Cyclones, gives his team the green light to shoot from almost anywhere on the floor. But Iowa State showed great patience and poise in the first half while building a 12-point lead.
The Cyclones weren’t too bad with their backs to the basket either as they frustrated Notre Dame into numerous miscues.
“Coach wanted us to have a game where we could really expose the big men,” Niang said. “We pulled away from the hoop, and I felt like I was going for easy points. That’s what I did. Credit to my teammates. They did a great job of spacing the floor and getting me the ball.”
The Irish made just two field goals in the final 11:19 of the first half, but they nearly escaped to their locker room down just 10 when they inexplicably watched as Will Clyburn dribble from one end to the other and hit a layup as the horn sounded to give Iowa State a 35-23 lead.
Niang’s three-point play put the Cyclones ahead 47-31 early in the second, and Iowa State couldn’t miss for several minutes while pushing its lead to 27.
The Cyclones outscored the Irish 21-7 over the last 11:40 to open a lead that seemed pretty comfortable given Notre Dame’s offensive struggles. The Irish, who pride themselves on taking care of the ball under coach Mike Brey, had an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. That was only four short of their season high set in a five-overtime win against Louisville.
Some of that was Iowa State’s defense, but a lot of it was just careless mistakes by the flailing Irish.
The Irish ditched those garish, love-’em-or-hate-’em green jerseys they wore in the Big East tournament last week for a white camouflaged look. But they rocked glow-in-the-dark socks and sneakers. Other than their fashion choices, there isn’t much flashy about Notre Dame.
Iowa State, on the other hand, likes to run and gun.
True to their nickname, the Cyclones can storm down the floor without warning and do some serious damage.
However, they got off to a slow start and were just 2 of 7 on 3-poiners when McGee knocked down a long one during an 11-2 run that put Iowa State ahead 25-19.
While the Cyclones got hot, Notre Dame was self-destructing. The Irish committed turnovers on five straight possessions, went 4:25 without even attempting a shot and didn’t make a field goal for 7:10 before finally getting one to drop.