Iowa State junior Dustin Hogue had grown up dreaming of playing in Madison Square Garden.
He grew up in Yonkers, a northern suburb of New York City and just a short subway ride to the Garden.
So he had more than a few reasons to want to play well, including having plenty of friends and family on hand Friday night for Iowa State’s East Regional semifinal against Connecticut.
The Cyclones (28-8) lost 81-76, but Hogue played the best game of his career, scoring a career-high 34 points on 15 of 19 shooting.
“It would have been an unforgettable moment to win in front of my fans and family,” Hogue said. “I had a lot of people from home watching and to have this opportunity all together is just unbelievable for me. We didn’t come out with the win, but to play in the Garden, it’s something I dreamed about as a kid. So this opportunity was special.”
As was expected, the attendance for the Iowa State-Connecticut game was heavily in the Huskies’ favor.
Although Madison Square Garden was only half full (it was close to being full for the late game between Virginia and Michigan State), a good majority of the fans made it sound like a UConn home game.
“It was tremendous,” UConn guard Ryan Boatright said. “Just being out there with that crowd and that UConn Nation behind you, when you’re tired, that intensity and that cheering helps you get to those loose balls, those 50/50 balls or those rebounds.”
First time, long time
This is the first time the NCAA Tournament has been played at Madison Square Garden since 1961.
And that was in the previous version of the Garden.
The current Garden opened in 1968 and has never hosted an NCAA Tournament round. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, the elder statesman of the four coaches at the East Regional, said the building’s aura still impresses kids born nearly 30 years after the building opened.
“The Garden is like a building version of our guy Magic [Johnson] ... everybody knows who he is, what he’s all about, no matter when you were born,” Izzo said. “And I think Madison Square Garden is something like that. So the players do know. I think the players were excited to come here. I think we’re excited to be part of something that hasn’t been here in 50-some years, so that’s an added bonus to playing in the Sweet 16.”
“We had some guys that hit shots all year that just didn’t fall tonight. Unfortunately, in the game of basketball you have nights where that basket looks that big and sometimes it looks like a little thimble. And unfortunately a few of our guys had that type of night.” — Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg on his team’s 81-76 loss to Connecticut.