DES MOINES - Needing a bounce-back effort and a confidence builder for the rest of the season, Iowa State senior forward Will Clyburn delivered a big knockout punch to the Drake Bulldogs on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
With the Cyclones clinging to a six-point lead with 3:20 to play in the game, Clyburn came up with a steal on an outlet pass and then finished off the sequence with a two-handed slam over Drake senior captain Ben Simons.
Simons was called for the foul and the three-point play by Clyburn allowed the Cyclones to put the victory away during the inaugural Big Four Classic. Clyburn finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the game as the Cyclones improved to 8-3 after the 86-77 win.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Iowa State senior and former Marshalltown Community College star Will Clyburn, left, takes the ball to the basket against Drake’s Micah Mason on Saturday during the Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena. Clyburn recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"That play was huge because it could have been a four-point game if Drake scored at the other end," Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said of Clyburn's 3-point play. "Will did a nice job of picking his spots tonight. I liked how he stayed aggressive."
Melvin Ejim also recorded a double-double as his 20 points and 11 rebounds were both game-highs. The Cyclones out-rebounded the Bulldogs 45-30, and Iowa State made 30-of-41 from the foul line to redeem itself from last year's 74-65 setback.
"It was very important," Hoiberg said of the foul shots. "We had good flow tonight and better spacing. It is a step in the right direction to hit 30 free throws. We definitely wanted to get the ball to our bigs."
Drake (4-5) played right with the Cyclones for about 37 minutes but could not come up with baskets when the game was on the line. The Bulldogs were just 6-of-20 from 3-point land in the game, while foul trouble and rebounding also plagued Drake.
"We dug ourselves too much of a hole with the fouls," Drake coach Mark Phelps said. "The fouling and the turnovers is ultimately what really hurt us today."
With Ben Simons and Seth VanDeest both in foul trouble in the first half, Ejim was able to assert himself inside the paint for some easy buckets. Clyburn then took over in the second half with several aggressive drives to the bucket that either resulted in a basket for himself, a trip to the foul line or an easy hoop for a teammate.
"I was trying to be aggressive," Clyburn said. "It helped me get to the line. It was nice to see the ball go in the basket."
Clyburn finished 9-for-9 from the line. Iowa State held a 13-point advantage from the stripe in the contest and Ejim connected on 11-of-14.
The foul line proved to be the difference in the game as the Cyclones struggled from 3-point range, connecting on just 4-of-19. But while the shooters were off, the Iowa State post players were scoring at will or drawing fouls on Drake's best players.
Georges Niang finished with 13 points and four rebounds and Percy Gibson added eight points in the win.
But it was Ejim's night down low for the Cyclones.
"My teammates found me tonight, and we all bought into the game plan," Ejim said.
Drake had a chance to cut into a seven-point lead in the second half but turned it over in four of its next five possessions. Phelps said that ultimately was the biggest stretch of the game.
"We just didn't play well throughout the course of the game," he said. "We had chances but you can't turn it over four out of five possessions. That was the game right there."
Drake got 18 points from VanDeest, who played just 24 minutes due to early foul trouble. He was 8-of-10 from the floor in the game.
"We can trust him to make the right plays," Phelps said of his center. "He is getting better and better and that will help us moving forward."
Ben Simons also had foul issues but still finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. Chris Hines added 13 points as well.
"Drake is a good team, and they hung in there tonight." Hoiberg said. "We didn't really put them away until late in the game. They'll be right there with the other good teams in the Missouri Valley Conference."
The Cyclones and Bulldogs were the second game of an instate doubleheader. Iowa beat Northern Iowa, 80-73 in the first game. Saturday's attendance for the inaugural Big Four Classic was 13,180. Iowa State continued to struggle with turnovers Saturday. The Cyclones turned it over 11 times first half and only led by four at the break. They finished with 17 turnovers in the game. The game was tied twice and it featured four lead changes. Drake's biggest lead was a seven-point advantage in the first half, while Iowa State led by as many as 10 in the second half. The win for Iowa State was the first victory away from Hilton Coliseum this season. Jeremy Jeffers, Joey King, Simons and Clarke all fouled out for Drake.