Sometimes, pretty basketball is overrated. Tonight marked the first road win by an Iowa State team against a BCS conference squad since a win at Minnesota in late 2006 - Iowa and Oregon State do not count - and it came in the ugliest of ways.
In a night where Virginia was missing Mike Scott - their best player - it would have been easy for Iowa State to come out flat. And they did - sort of - but not on defense. Ken Pomeroy's ratings have Iowa State 36th nationally in defensive efficiency, and while Iowa State hasn't played the best shooting teams in the world, maybe there's something to be said about the effort that Iowa State is playing with on defense this year. This is clearly a team with a short bench - playing only seven players tonight - but the effort is always there. Toss in Jamie Vanderbeken and Scott Christopherson playing their games, taking wide open 3's, and it was just a matter of making the shots. Virginia wanted to make the game ugly. They did. But Iowa State stayed under control. Diante Garrett was masterful in orchestrating the offense, with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists. In fact, four of Iowa State's starters - Garrett, Vanderbeken, Melvin Ejim and Jake Anderson all finished with eight boards.
Virginia isn't a top 25 team by any stretch. They are coming off a home loss to Seattle, and just barely escaped Norfolk State. But any ACC team (that isn't Wake Forest) is dangerous at home, and Iowa State just played their first game outside of the state of Iowa. The game was big in the sense that it was a pretty big swing game - just as the Cal and Northern Iowa and Iowa games were before. And we're getting better at doing what we need to do. Iowa State next plays on January 3 against Northern Illinois and former Colorado coach Ricardo Patton. Jake Anderson gets a chance for revenge against the coach who says he didn't need him.
Iowa State may not be on the national radar. But as each week passes, they are getting more dangerous. They play harder than they have the past four years, and they are more of a team than they have been in countless more seasons. The 2010-11 season was one to be approached with a sense of "enjoy the ride, wherever it takes us." This ride is a lot of fun right now.