January 02, 2015

A high-powered offense has been the driving force behind Iowa State's strong start, but Fred Hoiberg's team has yet to play a school as sound defensively as South Carolina.

The ninth-ranked Cyclones expect to be tested in their final non-conference tuneup Saturday against the Gamecocks in Brooklyn.

Since losing to No. 12 Maryland in Kansas City on Nov. 25, very little has slowed down Iowa State (10-1). The Cyclones shot 64.0 percent in a win over then-No. 18 Arkansas on Dec. 4 - their best mark in three years - and rolled to a 90-75 victory over Iowa on Dec. 12 for their most points against the Hawkeyes since 1991.

Iowa State is averaging 84.5 points on 50.6 percent shooting, with all of its starters scoring in double figures and making at least half their shots. Jameel McKay, a 6-foot-9 Marquette transfer, has provided a spark off the bench with 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting in his first two games.

Guard Monte Morris leads the nation with a 6.10-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and backcourt mate Naz Long is hitting 44.4 percent of his 3-pointers. He was 7 of 10 from beyond the arc in Wednesday's 83-33 win over overmatched Mississippi Valley State, the 100th victory of Hoiberg's career.

''It's a game that I wanted to win and get some momentum heading into league play," said Hoiberg, who reached 100 wins faster than any previous coach in Iowa State history. "Hopefully we get 101 the next time out."

Winning this weekend likely won't came as easy for Iowa State since South Carolina (8-3) allows an average of 57.9 points on 33.7 percent shooting - one of the best marks in the country.

The Gamecocks were particularly stingy defensively in going 5-0 in December, limiting opponents to 51.8 points per game on 29.2 percent shooting. That stretch included victories over 10-win Oklahoma State and an 8-4 Clemson team.

"It gives us a good taste of what Big 12 play is going to be like," Hoiberg said. "They are so physical. (Coach Frank Martin) does such a good job of getting those guys to play and his personality certainly rubs off on those kids. ... What they're doing defensively to teams right now, they're making them very uncomfortable."

The Gamecocks have won six straight - the longest in Martin's tenure, and haven't won seven in a row in a single season since opening 2003-04 with eight straight wins.

''I've been happy with this team for a while," he said after Tuesday's 91-54 victory over North Carolina A&T. "It's fun to be around.''

Martin was encouraged by his team's balanced scoring against the Aggies, something he feels it must do to be successful. Each starter scored in double digits and Mindaugas Kacinas led the team with a season-high 16 points off the bench.

Duane Notice is averaging 17.4 points on 53.2 percent shooting in the last seven games for the Gamecocks, who have had six different players lead the team in scoring.

''Offensively, I like balance. I don't like playing through one guy,'' Martin said. ''For us to be good, forever and ever, in our system, we have to play ''X'' number of guys. It's good to see different guys continue to grow and contribute when given a chance.''

This will be the first meeting between the programs but there is some familiarity between the coaches. Martin was 7-3 against Iowa State while coaching at Kansas State, splitting four head-to-head meetings with Hoiberg.

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