It was a tough night for Iowa State basketball fans watching ESPN2 Wednesday night.
Before the Cyclones’ disappointing 86-65 loss to No. 5 Duke at the United Center in Chicago, it was former Cyclone Wesley Johnson continuing to play out of his mind in another impressive Syracuse victory.
Johnson, who played his first two seasons at ISU before curiously deciding he would transfer, had19 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the No. 7-ranked Orange’s 74-57 victory over Memphis. The 6-7, 205-pound forward came into the night averaging 17.1 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 50 percent (23 of 46) from 3-point range.
Bob Knight called the SU-Memphis game for ESPN and had high praise for Johnson, whom he’d seen up close while coaching at Texas Tech.
“This kid can play,” Knight said during the telecast. “There isn’t any facet to the game he isn’t better than average at. Ane he obviously likes to play the game.”
After Johnson was done, the spotlight was on ISU against the Blue Devils. The big stage — and their opponents’ suffocating defense — was a little too much for the Cyclones to handle.
Big man Craig Brackins was in foul trouble and forced several shots, that is, when he could get them.
Duke’s ball pressure didn’t allow for many clean passes to Brackins, who finished with 12 points and just three rebounds.
Too many turnovers (18) and offensive rebounds allowed (??) didn’t help the cause.
ISU heads into its non-conference finale Saturday against North Dakota State with a record of 10-4. Reaching the postseason is not going to be easy for this crew.