AMES, Iowa (AP) — There never was any doubt about Iowa State's offense. The Cyclones have plenty of players who can score.
What has pleased coach Fred Hoiberg is the effort they've shown on the defensive end.
Aggressive defense kept the Cyclones ahead during some early shooting woes, which they eventually shook off in an 86-57 romp past North Carolina A&T on Tuesday night.
"Defense has to be your constant. You have to go out there every single night and defend," Hoiberg said. "When you're hitting shots, it's going to be a beautiful thing. When you're not, it's going to keep you in the game. That's what we try to do every day, whether it's practice, whether it's in games."
Tyrus McGee scored 16 points and Will Clyburn and Georges Niang each added 14 to lead Iowa State (4-0), which put the Aggies away with a big run late in the first half. Percy Gibson scored nine points, while Melvin Ejim had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Jean Louisme's 11 points led North Carolina A&T (1-4), which shot only 16 percent (5-for-31) in the first half and 29.7 percent for the game. But that was an improvement from their 15 percent shooting in a 93-39 loss to No. 22 Cincinnati on Sunday.
"We learned we can really push ourselves on defense," said Niang, a freshman. "That's what kept us in the game. I feel if we can pick up our defense, we don't have to worry about our offense."
That offense sputtered at the start.
Iowa State missed its first 10 3-point shots and found itself leading the offensively challenged Aggies only 19-14 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the opening half. But McGee hit a pair of 3s, including a fadeaway in the right corner, and Ejim knocked down one from beyond the arc to spark a 16-0 run that hiked the Cyclones' lead to 35-14.
It became a 19-1 burst after Gibson answered an A&T free throw with a three-point play off a nice feed from Clyburn, and it never got any better for the Aggies after that.
After struggling so early, the Cyclones hit from everywhere to start the second half. Korie Lucious nailed a pair of 3s, Clyburn scored five points and Ejim and Anthony Booker each made a 3 as the lead quickly grew to 55-26.
"We just weren't making shots in the first half," said Clyburn, a senior who has one season of eligibility after transferring from Utah. "The second half, we just put it together."
Chris Babb had an impressive sequence when he buried a 3 after two sharp passes, then soared in along the baseline to tip in a missed shot. Consecutive 3s by Naz Long and McGee made it 77-40, and Hoiberg soon sent in his reserves to mop up.
"They're a unique team," Hoiberg said. "They played different defenses. They were in zone, then they'd go to a switching man, then they played all man, then go back to zone. I thought we were a little confused with that. I thought we took, not terrible shots, we were open, but I thought we could have made an extra pass or two in that first half. But we kept our lead because we were defending on the other end of the floor."
Unchallenged so far, Iowa State's competition will crank up several notches when it meets Cincinnati on Friday in Las Vegas. The Cyclones have won their games by an average of 32.5 points.
"We'll see what we're made of, playing this Cincinnati team," Hoiberg said. "These guys are really talented. They really drive the ball, they've got great length on the inside and they can shoot it. We're going to have a great test there."