By JORDAN GARRETSON
(AP) — Facing its toughest competition yet, Iowa State rose to the occasion with its most complete performance.READ MORE: 7 Shot, Including 5 Teenagers, In West Baltimore Friday Night
The 13th-ranked Cyclones will look to continue their neutral-floor success Tuesday night against Maryland in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic final in Kansas City.
Iowa State (3-0) defeated Alabama 84-74 in Monday’s semifinal. Though it marked the team’s smallest margin of victory after 93-82 and 81-58 wins against Oakland and Georgia State, respectively, the Cyclones posted season bests in field-goal percentage (58.0) and opponents’ field-goal percentage (38.6).
“It’s a great win, that’s a really good team,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Iowa State has won 10 of its last 11 games played on a neutral floor since the start of last season, only losing 81-76 to eventual national champion Connecticut in an NCAA tournament regional semifinal on March 28.
Georges Niang scored 28 on 9-of-14 shooting and hit 8 of 8 free throws to improve to 22 for 24 on the season (91.7 percent). Niang, who made 72.1 percent of his free throws a season ago, is averaging 22.7 points.
The Cyclones were boosted by bench reinforcements with reserves Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader returning from two-game suspensions for drunk driving. Thomas scored 13 points while Nader, a transfer from Northern Illinois, had four points in 10 minutes in his Iowa State debut.
Hoiberg’s bench had totaled nine points in the first two games.
“What I did tonight is what I’m looking forward to doing all season,” said Thomas, whose 44 3-pointers tied for the third-most on the team in 2013-14.READ MORE: ‘We Want To Prevent This From Happening Again’ Witnesses Describe Deadly Collision Between Fire Truck And Dirt Bike Rider In Baltimore As Advocates Call For Solutions
The Terrapins (4-0) advanced with a 78-73 win over Arizona State despite letting the Sun Devils shoot 50 percent from the field and make 14 of 27 from 3-point range.
Melo Trimble scored 31 points, setting a single-game school record by a freshman, while Dez Wells played the role of closer with 12 of his 14 coming in the second half. Wells, who hit a go-ahead basket with 40 seconds left, was 6 for 11 in the second half after going 1 for 7 in the first.
He leads the team with 16.8 points per game and is shooting 54.0 percent.
“We were going to Dez. I told the whole team, the whole staff,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were just creating plays in timeouts, drawing them up in the dirt there, trying to get him the ball, letting him make plays. He made some big-time shots.”
The Cyclones might be concerned with their season-high 15 turnovers Monday, but Maryland has only forced 10.0 per game
Maryland has lost 24 of 28 against ranked opponents, though they toppled then-No. 5 Virginia in overtime on March 9 in their last matchup with a Top 25 team. Maryland hasn’t knocked off a ranked team in the regular season on a neutral floor since an 80-62 win over then-No. 5 Michigan State on Nov. 27, 2008.
These schools have never met, though Turgeon was 5-0 against Iowa State while with Texas A&M from 2008-11.
Latest Sports Stories:MORE NEWS: 'It's Ridiculous': Drivers React To Increase In Gas Prices
[display-posts category=”sports” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=“5”]