AMES, Iowa (AP) — On a night when Iowa State couldn't buy a basket from beyond the arc, the Cyclones leaned on their second-half defense to avoid an early home upset.
Rasir Bolton scored 17 points, Solomon Young added 15 and Iowa State rallied from an early double-digit deficit to overwhelm Northern Illinois 70-52 on Tuesday.
Michael Jacobson scored nine points with 12 rebounds for the Cyclones (2-1), who went on a 26-6 run to open the second half and scored 55 of the game's final 81 points.
"It was a great test of our basketball character in the second half," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "Really good testament to these guys."
The Cyclones, thanks to a cavalcade of missed 3s and rebounds, fell behind by as much as 26-15 in the first half. Iowa State cut it to 34-31 by halftime in part by feeding Young in the post, and it took its first lead on a 3-point play by Bolton that put the Cyclones ahead 38-36.
Tyrese Haliburton then tossed an alley-oop to George Conditt that made it a 46-40 game and woke up the crowd. Haliburton capped a stretch of 13 straight points with a layup that pushed Iowa State's lead to 17.
The Cyclones held the Huskies to 18.6% shooting after halftime.
"Our energy. Our sense of urgency," Bolton said about the difference between the first and second halves. "We decided to lock in on defense and try and get transition layups and dunks, and I think that really boosted our energy level and our confidence."
The Cyclones won despite shooting a ghastly 3 of 25 on 3s. They entered play shooting 35.7% from 3-point range.
Eugene German had 24 points to lead NIU — though he needed 27 shots to get there.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa State: This game was a microcosm of what could be the Cyclones' season. The first half was Iowa State at its worst, as the Cyclones played leaky defense and took quick shots. The second half was Iowa State near its best, with much tighter defense and a better focus on working the ball inside the paint.
Northern Illinois: German, who has averaged at least 20 points a game in each of his last two seasons, is going to be a problem in the MAC this winter.
Haliburton had a quiet night by his standards, scoring just four points with six assists and three steals. ... Conditt has proven to be a consistent shot-blocking presence, swatting four away in just 13 minutes. ... Freshman Caleb Grill was a bright spot off the bench for the second home game in a row. He was 3-of-3 shooting, hit both of his 3s and finished with eight points. ... Senior Prentiss Nixon had a rough game, shooting 0 of 3 and scoring just one point.
HE SAID IT
"He provides a huge presence around the basket that — all great teams in the half court, defensively, have a shot-blocker at the rim, because he can just make up for so many mistakes," Prohm said about Conditt. "He's been really good the last couple of games."
Iowa State hosts Southern Miss on Nov. 19
Northern Illinois hosts Coppin State on Friday.