Ames, Iowa The ugliness of the aftermath late Monday night deflected attention from the prettiest college basketball game in this season littered with ugly ones.
The return of beautiful basketball for 45 minutes Monday night in Hilton Coliseum can be traced to two factors. No. 1: Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg’s fast-paced, spread-the-floor-and-let-the-shooters-shoot brand of basketball. No. 2: Kansas can compete and win games played at every pace.
KU wins the majority of close games and Iowa State tends to lose them, in part a function of Kansas playing more sound defense.
Give Hoiberg credit for elevating the Iowa State program in terms of victories and popularity, even though the Cyclones fell just short, 108-96, in overtime on a night two calls from officials went against the Cyclones late in regulation. Basketball programs across America that repeatedly find themselves on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble need to emulate what Hoiberg is doing. He gets more out of transfers than their previous coaches because he encourages them to shoot and frees their minds.
“We’re playing with a tremendous amount of confidence on the offensive end, as much as any team I’ve been around,” Hoiberg said. “We share the ball. We space the floor. We trust each other at that end of the court. We just have to carry it over and find a way to grind out those stops when they matter most.”
Both teams hit big shot after big shot, so many of them tightly guarded.
“I know Fred’s crushed and I would be too if the outcome were different because both teams played so well,” Self said afterward. ‘He’ll watch the tape and I’ll watch the tape. I guarantee you I don’t know if we’ve had two teams in the same game execute as well offensively as both teams did tonight. That was two good teams playing. The crowd was unbelievable, great, and our guys responded well to the atmosphere. It was as much fun as I’ve had all year long coaching a game.”
Hoiberg indeed was crushed, having watched his team score 89 and 96 points against one of the nation’s toughest defenses, only to lose twice in overtime. Still, his heavy heart didn’t blind his vision.
“It was an entertaining basketball game, I’ll say that in a season you see 30-29 games, 50-45,” Hoiberg said. “If nothing else, we gave our fans their money’s worth. We try to play a very exciting style of basketball. We try to get it out and we have five playmakers on the floor at one time. We’ve created a buzz because of our style of play and we’re going to continue to play that way. We just have to find a way to get some stops. And when we do that, I think we have a long season ahead of us.”
By long season, Hoiberg meant one that includes NCAA Tournament success. If the Cyclones get into the field, the tournament benefits.