AMES — Wednesday night’s game between Iowa State and Texas stirred up some fond memories for Fred Hoiberg.
The Cyclone legend was at Hilton Coliseum scouting for the Minnesota Timberwolves and had a courtside seat for his former team’s battle with the top-ranked Longhorns.
ISU (11-5) played its guts out and a raucous crowd did its part, but ultimately Texas (16-0) was too talented, too deep and too motivated to keep its perfect record intact in a 90-83 victory.
Hoiberg knows how the guys in the home locker room were feeling.
“We played against a couple of No. 1 teams. The atmosphere in here was as good as it gets,” Hoiberg said. “I think we lost to Kansas one year by seven when Raef LaFrentz came in here as a freshman. We should have beat them.”
Hoiberg retired from basketball in 2006 and now is the T’Wolves’ Vice President of Basketball Operations. He was representing one of 13 NBA teams inside Hilton Coliseum Wednesday night.
He surely came away impressed by sharp-shooting guard Avery Bradley, forward Damion James and what seemed like a never-ending string of future NBA players that came off Texas’ bench.
ISU star forward Craig Brackins had his moments, too, as did Marquis Gilstrap with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Not that Hoiberg could give us his thoughts — or say who he was watching most closely.
“I can’t talk about the guys. It’s against NBA rules,” Hoiberg said.
The Mayor will be back on Jan. 23 for the Cyclones’ game with Kansas, which also has a number of pro prospects. The home crowd figures to be just as ampedfor that one, as always is the case when the Jayhawks come to town.
“I love coming back to Ames. It’s my favorite place to watch a game,” Hoiberg said. “The fans here are just amazing. The crowd always give these guys a chance.”
The Cyclones have underachieved this season with what is Coach Greg McDermott’s most talented collection of players in his four years at the school.
An NCAA Tournament run isn’t out of the realm, but realistically it’s not looking too good at this point.
Some fans are down on McDermott. Hoiberg isn’t.
“Greg is an excellent coach,” he said. “It’s a tough conference to compete in with all the history of some of the programs, but I definitely think he’s got the program on the right track.”
The Cyclones showed some spunk against Texas that has been lacking of late. They led at the half and had the college basketball world on upset alert.
“I’m proud of the way our team competed,” McDermott said. “A sense of urgency was there.”
Teams of ISU past have rolled over and died following a 10-0 run like the one Texas had to start the second half. McDermott’s bunch refused to do that, in the face of Brackins, Gilstrap and key reserve Charles Boozer all missing time in the second half due to injury.
The Cyclones continued competing until the final seconds.
“We didn’t quit after that and got ourselves back in it, but they made big play after big play,” McDermott said.
Maybe opening the Big 12 Conference season with the league’s best team will prove to be a good thing. Next up is a trip Saturday to Lincoln, Neb., for a game with the Huskers.