AMES, Iowa (AP) — In the midst of a grueling February stretch that will define its season, Iowa State finally got a breather.
It was a laugher the Cyclones needed — none more than grieving freshman Nkereuwem Okoro.
Freshman forward Georges Niang scored a career-high 19 points, Will Clyburn had 16 and Iowa State rolled past TCU 87-53 on Saturday for its 21st straight home win.
Tyrus McGee scored 15 points and point guard Korie Lucious dished out six assists with zero turnovers for the Cyclones (17-8, 7-5 Big 12), who remained the only team in the conference with a perfect home record at 14-0.
“I really liked how we established tempo early in that game,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I though Korie especially … just made good, simple plays that led to baskets.”
Iowa State never trailed in blowing past the Horned Frogs, the only team the Cyclones have swept in the Big 12 so far. Iowa State led by 15 at halftime and jumped ahead by as much as 76-48 late in the second half.
Iowa State got up by so much that it allowed Hoiberg to insert Okoro into a game for the first time since December.
Okoro, who spent time back in New York City after the death of his brother Idiongo to cancer, finished the scoring with a 3-pointer that thrilled the crowd and his teammates.
“He’s been going through a lot the last couple of weeks. Just to see him smiling and do something good, you really feel for the kid. It was just great to see him make a shot,” Niang said.
Kyan Anderson had 11 points to lead TCU (10-15, 1-11), which has lost three straight since stunning Kansas on Feb. 6.
The Horned Frogs let Iowa State shoot 14 of 29 from 3-point range, and forwards Niang and Clyburn hit five on nine tries.
“A team like that causes us a lot of problems,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “Everyone causes us a lot of problems, but (Iowa State) is a bad matchup for us because they’re older, they’re experienced and their post kids can put it on the perimeter.”
The Cyclones have put their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy because of their somewhat baffling inability to close out opponents on the road.
Iowa State is just 1-5 away from home in the Big 12, a stretch that includes an overtime loss to Kansas, a two-point loss at Oklahoma State and a double-overtime heartbreaker at Texas on Wednesday.
The Cyclones are unstoppable at home, though. TCU found that out right away.
Iowa State opened up with an alley-oop dunk from Niang to Melvin Ejim, and the Cyclones jumped ahead 22-10 midway through the first half. TCU responded with a surprising 9-0 run, but McGee provided the play that got the Cyclones going again.
McGee took a rebound the length of the court and hit a layup after being knocked to the floor. McGee pumped his fist and buried the free throw, and Korie Lucious and Chris Babb followed with 3s for a 36-21 lead.
TCU made a push early in the second half with a 10-4 run that briefly brought the deficit into single digits. But Niang and Clyburn answered with 3s that ended any illusions of a comeback.
“Boy, (Niang) was great. Again, you give a lot of that credit to Korie for making those easy drop passes to him,” Hoiberg said.
Connell Crossland had 10 points for the Horned Frogs, who fell to 0-6 on the road in their new league. TCU has lost each of those games by at least 11 points.
“The ball didn’t go down for us. And when the ball doesn’t go down for us … it puts a lot of pressure on our defense,” Johnson said.
The Cyclones have a major road game looming Wednesday at Baylor. They return home to host Texas Tech, the team sharing the basement with the Horned Frogs, before getting Kansas in Ames on Feb. 25.
“It was key. We just lost big games in a row. The last one, we felt we should have won,” Lucious said. “We knew we had to come in and get this game, going back on the road to Baylor.”
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