AMES, Iowa (AP) -- Welcome back, Jiri Hubalek.
Shaking off the frustration from what has been a difficult
season, Hubalek was a force for Iowa State on Sunday, scoring 19
points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Cyclones to a
hard-earned 67-54 victory over North Dakota State.
Hubalek was suspended for the first six games, then struggled to
catch on to new coach Greg McDermott's system. The 6-foot-11 junior
had been averaging 7.6 points and shooting 37 percent.
"I've been working hard in practice and it paid off," Hubalek
said. "It was happening in practice. I just wanted it to carry
over to the game and stick with the game plan."
Hubalek established himself down low and stayed with it after
missing some easy shots early on. He scored on a variety of
low-post moves in finishing 6-for-13 from the field and got himself
to the free throw line, where he went 7-for-8.
"We wanted to get out on their 3-point shooters and you have to
make a choice," North Dakota State coach Tim Miles said. "We
decided to guard Hubalek man-to-man and he got good shots. But we
decided that we would make them beat us two at a time instead of
three at a time."
Hubalek roamed the perimeter much of the time under former coach
Wayne Morgan last season. McDermott is trying to change that and
it's been a challenge -- for both player and coach.
"We wanted him to think block first and 3-point shot second,"
McDermott said. "It's a lot easier said than done. But he's bought
into it. He can do something nobody else on our team can do. He's
the best low-post scorer we have."
Hubalek's previous high was 16 points against Texas A&M last
season. His best this season had been 12 points against Northern
Iowa, but he was just 4-for-18 in that game.
So, Jiri, has coach been tough on you?
"Honestly, yeah," Hubalek said. Then he added:
"He's just trying to get me better and I really appreciate it.
He's helping me become a better player. I'm happy he didn't give up
The game sent McDermott against the school he coached in the
2000-01 season. McDermott left after that season to begin a
five-year stint at Northern Iowa and he moved to Iowa State last
Northern Iowa beat Iowa State earlier this season and the
Cyclones had to scramble to avoid leaving their coach with another
loss to one of his former teams.
North Dakota State, which upset then-No. 8 Marquette earlier
this season, led by four in the first half and was up 30-28 after
Woodside's 3-pointer early in the second half.
"I was really scared of this game," said McDermott, whose team
was coming off a weeklong break. "I've really been hard on them
(in practice) this week. From a fatigue standpoint, I was a little
concerned what we had left in the tank."
Iowa State tied it on Taylor's first basket and Clark scored
underneath to put the Cyclones ahead to stay. Taylor then hit a 3
to make it 35-30 and Iowa State eventually took control with the
help of a technical foul on Smith.
North Dakota State trailed 42-36 when Smith was whistled after
jawing with the officials. Johnson sank the two free throws for the
technical, starting a 14-6 run that stretched the lead to 56-42
with 4:14 remaining. Hubalek got two inside baskets and sank two
free throws during the run.
"Their athleticism and big bodies were a big factor in the
game," Nelson said. "In the second half, we started to get our
offense going, but they were getting key rebounds and putbacks."
Woodside's fourth 3-pointer capped a 7-0 burst that drew the
Bison to 56-49. But consecutive layups by Taylor and Clark blunted
the Bison's charge and they never threatened again.
Iowa State looked like a team coming off a break at the start.
The Cyclones missed 13 of their first 15 shots and trailed 21-17
before scoring the final seven points of the half. The Bison
couldn't take control because they were getting outrebounded and
shot only 8-for-30 in the opening half.
"This long break, we've been going two-a-days every single
day," Taylor said. "It's really been a defensive mindset this
whole break. We came out with a defense-first mindset and that
carried over to the offense."