By Luke Meredith
AMES, Iowa —
Freshman Georges Niang hit a layup with 2.5 seconds left and Iowa State beat West Virginia 69-67 Wednesday night despite blowing an 18-point lead.
Melvin Ejim had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cyclones (12-4, 2-1 Big 12), who survived an unexpectedly wild finish for their second straight win.
Iowa State opened the second half with an 18-4 run and led by as much as 56-38. The Mountaineers (8-8, 1-3) tied it at 67 on 3 by Jabarie Hinds with 11.6 seconds left, but Niang got wide open for the game-winner underneath the basket.
Hinds had 20 points for West Virginia. Juwan Staten, the Mountaineers second-leading scorer, had seven points and seven assists after being benched by coach Bob Huggins for the previous three halves.
West Virginia missed its first 12 3-point attempts before hitting nine of its last 12.
The Mountaineers kept it close for a while because of their defense.
They just couldn’t do much of anything on offense until the final minutes.
And then they did nearly everything.
West Virginia’s physical defense gave Iowa State trouble in the first half. The Cyclones had just four shots inside of 20 feet — including a pair of spectacular dunks by Will Clyburn — but they hit enough 3s, six, for a 29-26 lead.
Ejim steadied Iowa State’s offense with a pair of inside scores, and Clyburn followed West Virginia’s 12th-straight missed 3 with a three-point play to make it 40-28 with 15:56 to go.
The way the Mountaineers were shooting, it felt like an insurmountable advantage.
West Virginia somehow found its shooting touch, hitting nine 3s late to tie it up before Clyburn found Niang all alone under Iowa State’s hoop.
Korie Lucious had 15 points and eight assists for Iowa State.
Though the Mountaineers got back one of their best players in Staten, one of their most promising youngsters didn’t even make the trip to Ames.
Freshman Terry Henderson, who started the last eight games and averaged 11 points in his last three, stayed back in West Virginia because of a back injury. That might not sound like a ton of points to lose — until you consider that no Mountaineer entered play with more than 10.6 points an outing.
Eron Harris chipped in with 17 points for West Virginia.
Iowa State guard Bubu Palo, who was reinstated to the team on Monday after a sexual abuse charge against him was dropped by prosecutors, sat on the bench but wasn’t in uniform.
Palo was suspended from the team in September after being charged with sexually abusing a woman in May. But the Story County Attorney’s Office said Monday that forensic evidence clashed with sworn testimony provided by the woman and her mother.
Palo said Wednesday that he expects to be back in time for next week’s game at Texas Tech.