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November 17, 2013

Iowa State 77, Michigan 70

Basketball season arrived in Ames on Sunday afternoon.

Sure, Iowa State had already won two tune-up games before no. 7 Michigan's visit. But the Cyclones' 77-70 victory over the Wolverines in front of an electric capacity crowd at Hilton Coliseum truly signaled that the season is here. And early on, ISU is showing signs of being on the verge of making it a special year.

Iowa State fought off a couple of bids by Michigan, last year's national runner-up, to build a double-digit lead and separate from the Cyclones. But on both occasions, once in each half, ISU refused to let it happen. Iowa State battled back from nine points down in the first half and eight points down in the second to post the huge non-conference win and make a strong case for being included in this coming week's national rankings.

The Cyclones, now 3-0, have a challenging turnaround heading into another attractive non-league match-up. Iowa State plays at BYU on Wednesday night.

Trailing 53-45 with just under 13 minutes left to play, Iowa State entered dangerous territory against the 7th-ranked Wolverines. But a timeout and set play turned ISU's fortunes around quickly. Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg drew up a DeAndre Kane penetration into the lane and dish to Dustin Hogue for a two-handed dunk that made it 53-47 with 12:38 to play. Then Melvin Ejim, playing for the first time this season, blocked a shot on the Michigan end, triggering a break that led to a Naz Long three-point field goal that made it 53-50 at the 12:07 mark.

Michigan got the lead back to six and was still up five with just over eight minutes to go. Iowa State came back with an Ejim jumper on an assist by Kane and then a Kane three-pointer when he was dared to shoot from outside by the Wolverines. After a Michigan timeout, Hogue converted an offensive rebound into a put back layup for a 64-62 Iowa State lead and then Long drained another three-pointer with 5:10 to go to make it 67-62 Cyclones.

George Niang scored with 3:16 to play to give Iowa State its first six-point lead of the game at 69-63. He was fouled by Michigan's Mitch McGary but failed to hit the free throw. That was the first of two missed opportunities for ISU to build a three-possession lead at the line. After a five-point flurry by Michigan made it 69-68 with 2:17 to go, Niang made two free throws as a short bank shot to make it 73-68 at the 1:11 mark. Hogue was fouled after a Michigan miss and made 1-of-2 free throws, keeping the Wolverines within two possessions at 74-68 with 54 seconds to play.

But Michigan could not score on its next possession and ISU's Long was fouled on the outlet pass as the Cyclones came away with the ball. Long hit both free throws to give Iowa State a 76-68 lead with 21 seconds to go, in effect clinching the victory.

Michigan led by nine in the first half on two occasions before the slow starting Cyclones got back into the game. And Iowa State did it two points at a time, making 14-of-24 shots inside the three-point arc in the first half, including 22 points scored in the paint. ISU was just 1-of-8 on three-pointers in the opening half, the make coming from Long to open the game's scoring. Iowa State then missed eight straight threes but still led 35-34 at halftime. With UM leading 24-15, Ejim scored four straight points to make it 24-17 and then Monte Morris laid in a bucket off an assist from Niang to make it 24-19. Then Kane hit back-to-back jumpers to get Iowa State within one at 24-23. Long gave ISU its first lead since the opening minutes of the game on a layup with 3:59 to go that made it 27-26 Cyclones. The lead went back and forth for the rest of the half.

Ejim had a huge ahead-of-schedule return to the court after missing two games with a knee injury. He scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, coming off the bench in both halves. Hogue had a double-double performance in just his third game as a Cyclone, scoring 12 points and collecting 10 rebounds. Iowa State finished with five scorers in double figures as Long scored 16, Kane 13 and Niang 10.

The game marked the first visit to Hilton Coliseum for long-time basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale, who worked the game for ESPN2. Vitale was reunited with former coaching rival Johnny Orr before the game. Orr, the all-time winningest head coach at both Iowa State and Michigan, came onto the floor with Hoiberg during the pre-game. Orr and Vitale coached against each other when Orr was at Michigan at Vitale was the head coach at the University of Detroit.

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