N. Iowa-Iowa St. Preview

The Associated Press

Coach Fred Hoiberg has received contributions from several sources on his Iowa State team, which stands on the cusp of its best start in 10 years.

The high-scoring Cyclones are hoping to extend their hot start in consecutive contests against in-state rivals.

With a date against No. 23 Iowa looming, No. 17 Iowa State will try not to look past a Northern Iowa team that has given it trouble Saturday night in the Big Four Classic in Des Moines.

The Cyclones (6-0), with their highest ranking since the 2000-01 season, are looking to start 7-0 for the first time since 2003-04. They've since opened with six straight wins three times, and two of those runs ended against Northern Iowa.

Iowa State's Melvin Ejim is averaging a team-high 17.0 points and 8.0 rebounds after recording his 23rd career double-double with 14 and 10, respectively, in a 99-70 rout of Auburn on Monday. The senior forward has played well in two career games at Des Moines, totaling 43 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and six steals.

"Hopefully, she's kind to me and I have another great game," said Ejim of Wells Fargo Arena.

DeAndre Kane also has played a key role for up-tempo Iowa State, averaging 15.0 points, 7.5 boards and 5.7 assists. Dustin Hogue became the latest Cyclone to post a big game with career highs of 22 points and 16 rebounds Monday.

Hoiberg's team is among the national leaders with 10.7 3-pointers and 91.8 points per game, including 99.7 over the last three. Iowa State is one of only three teams with six players averaging in double figures, along with Charlotte and Florida.

The Cyclones have excelled at sharing the ball, ranking third in the nation with 20.5 assists per game and fifth with a 1.84 assist-to-turnover ratio. Point guard Monte Morris is one of the country's best with a 4.5 assist-to-turnover mark.

"You want an unselfish group that's willing to make the extra pass," Hoiberg said. "Nobody is concerned about their numbers and that's been evident with our early season assist-to-turnover ratio."

Iowa State's balanced offense poses a difficult challenge for Northern Iowa (3-4), which has given up 78.5 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting in its four losses.

The Panthers allowed a season-high point total and 10 3-pointers in an 83-72 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday. They had a nine-point lead early in the second half before giving up 17 straight points.

Deon Mitchell leads Northern Iowa with 14.3 points per game after finishing with a team-high 19 against Milwaukee, while Wes Washpun added a career-high 16 off the bench.

The Panthers, second-to-last among Missouri Valley Conference teams with a 43.2 shooting percentage, could have trouble finding open looks against an Iowa State team that tops the Big 12 with a 35.2 defensive field-goal percentage.

Northern Iowa has been the dominant defensive club in recent meetings, limiting the Cyclones to 58.7 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting while winning five of six under coach Ben Jacobson.

The Panthers seek their fourth straight win in this series following a 69-62 victory in Ames on Nov. 30, 2011, though Iowa State holds a 35-12 lead in the all-time series.

Following this contest, the Cyclones host the rival Hawkeyes next Friday.

"It's about getting better," said Hoiberg of the back-to-back in-state games. "That's what we're looking for out of our team."

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