AMES – There was no Harrison hangover Friday night at Hilton Coliseum.
Hours after Harrison Barnes, the nation’s top-ranked recruit chose North Carolina over his hometown team, Iowa State opened its season with an impressive 88-68 victory over Idaho State at Hilton Coliseum.
Cyclone players and coaches were hoping for two victories on this day. They had to settle for one.
Barnes, who often times sits courtside for ISU games, was not in the building Friday. The impact of his decision was felt across the college basketball world, no more so than right here.
“It probably impacted me more than it did (the players),” Coach Greg McDermott said afterwards. “Harrison was just one of the guys to them. He’s been around our gym for three years and we invested a lot in it. He decided this wasn’t the place, and that’s OK.
“Are we disappointed? Yes. I wish him all the best, but my focus has to the guys that are on my team and want to be on my team. He chose not to be.”
The group of players McDermott has looked awfully good, as ISU shot 54.7 percent and came four points short of scoring the most points during the coach’s previous three seasons.
Athleticism and depth that has been lacking was on display in front of an announced crowd of 13,727.
Newcomers Marquis Gilstrap and LaRon Dendy threw down monster dunks and ran the floor.
Freshman guard Chris Colvin showed off his passing and dribbling skills and Marquette transfer Scott Christopherson proved his toughness and shooting touch in his Cyclone debut.
“You wouldn’t even think they were new,” said forward Craig Brackins, who led ISU with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting. “They came in with a lot of energy. They were into it the whole game.”
Dendy sparked a decisive 21-8 run to close the first half.
The junior college transfer had eight points in the spurt and finished with 16 to go with seven rebounds. Dendy, who is 6-9, 230 pounds, was active around the basket in on the break.
“He impacts the game with his energy and he can really run the floor,” McDermott said. “He ran by the pack a couple of times in transition. Those are the plays we need him to make.”
This is a team that will play at a much faster pace that McDermott teams ever have.
The Cyclones (1-0) can go 11 players deep on the bench and have the type of athletes to fit that style.
“Get out and run – I love it,” Dendy said. “With me, Craig and Marquis and all the other guys running… we are all athletes.”
Gilstrap finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Christopherson scored 10 points and made good on both of his 3-point attempts.