December 06, 2015

While Iowa State had nearly a week off to recover from an injury scare to its star player, its next opponent faces a short turnaround on a grueling road trip.

The fourth-ranked Cyclones return to the court Monday night against Buffalo, which takes on its second top 10 team in three days.

Iowa State (6-0) received a six-day break after Tuesday's 84-64 victory over North Dakota State, a tougher game than the final score indicated. The Cyclones led the defending Summit Conference tournament champion Bison by two with 12 minutes left before a 20-6 run sealed their 30th straight nonconference win at Hilton Coliseum.

Abdel Nader scored seven of his 21 points during the surge and Georges Niang had 13 of his 15 in the second half after sitting out part of the first with what turned to be merely a minor muscle cramp.

The preseason All-American appeared to be in considerable pain when falling to the floor with 6:23 remaining before halftime, but returned a few minutes later.

''I just got a charley horse. I probably overreacted a little bit,'' he said. ''I was just scared at first, because you bang knee to knee and I just didn't know what was going on. I'm glad I'm good.''

The Cyclones now face another 2015 NCAA participant from the mid-major ranks prior to Thursday's Cy-Hawk showdown with rival Iowa. Buffalo (4-4), however, barely resembles the 23-win team that took Big 12 member West Virginia to the wire in a 68-62 loss in last season's Tournament.

Coach Bobby Hurley was hired by Arizona State in July and all-Mid-American Conference guard Shannon Evans transferred to the Sun Devils shortly thereafter. 2014-15 MAC player of the year Justin Moss was dismissed from the program a month later for an alleged dorm room theft.

The Bulls head to Hilton Coliseum on a two-game skid. After dropping a 60-58 decision to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday on a tie-breaking basket in the final seconds, Buffalo was dealt an 82-59 defeat at No. 8 Duke, Hurley's alma mater, on Saturday.

"We knew this was going to be a difficult game and that it was going to be hard to win here," Bulls coach Nate Oats said. "But we came here for the environment, the competition, and to see if we could get better and it was a big confidence booster for some of our kids, like CJ Massinburg."

The freshman Massinburg finished with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Buffalo, which lost at Final Four participants Kentucky and Wisconsin last season, has allowed 82.7 points in losing all three of its road games. It'll be challenged to slow down a balanced Cyclones' offense that's scoring 87.3 per game with a starting five that's each averaging at least 13.7 points.

The Bulls will be the first MAC school with back-to-back games against top 10 opponents since Eastern Michigan faced Duke and Syracuse in December 2012.

Iowa State, 11-3 against current MAC members, recorded a 106-36 rout in the schools' lone meeting in 1992.

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