Gracious in Victory
By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
If Iowa State’s Mike Taylor took any personal pleasure in beating Missouri’s Stefhon Hannah last night, then he owns a killer poker face. Taylor seemed almost apologetic when his first Big 12 Conference victory came at the expense of Hannah, his former teammate and roommate at Chipola College.
"There’s never no trash talking because we’ve got a whole lot of respect for each other," Taylor said outside the visitor’s locker room at Mizzou Arena. "We’re like basketball brothers."
Taylor’s graciousness aside, he has bragging rights until these teams meet again Feb. 6. Hannah might have outplayed his fellow Chicago native, but with 1.6 seconds left, Wesley Johnson’s put-back of Taylor’s missed 3-pointer gave Iowa State a 66-65 victory. The Cyclones’ comeback was made possible when Hannah committed a costly turnover with 7.7 seconds left.
For the former teammates, though, the final score was more important than the other one: Taylor 1, Hannah 0.
"It was more of a team thing," Taylor said. "That’s what Coach has been drilling us on this whole week: It’s more of a team thing. It’s not no one player vs. another player, referring to me and Stefhon."
Losing his first conference game and first home game seemed to bother Hannah as much as losing to his former teammate.
"He’s a competitive dude. I’m a competitive dude," said Hannah, who talked to Taylor on the phone Friday night and exchanged text messages throughout the week. "He just won the game, but it was great playing against him."
Last season, Taylor and Hannah guided Chipola to a 27-3 record and a No. 6 ranking in the final NJCAA poll. Since parting ways from the Marianna, Fla., junior college, both became catalysts for their new teams while averaging an identical 16.0 points in nonconference play.
The first Hannah-Taylor showdown in the Big 12 was fairly even on the stat sheet. Hannah overcame two early fouls to finish with 17 points, three assists and two turnovers.
Taylor matched Hannah’s 17 points but turned the ball over six times to just one assist. Five of Taylor’s turnovers came in the first half, prompting Cyclones Coach Greg McDermott to hand the ball-handling duties to Corey McIntosh in the second half. McDermott also assigned Dodie Dunson to cover Hannah through much of the second half.
But after Taylor drained a 3-pointer in the final minute to cut MU’s lead to 65-62, Taylor requested a switch.
"Dunson was doing a great job on him all night," Taylor said. "But when the game was on line, I told Dodie, ‘You take Keon Lawrence, and I’m going to guard Stefhon.’ "
Hannah never got off another shot. A defender tied him up for a jump-ball in the lane on MU’s next possession. The Tigers regained possession but couldn’t protect their slim lead.
"You never know what he’s going to do because he’s so tricky and quick with the ball," Taylor said. "… It was kind of familiar, bringing back the old days when we used to play at Chipola. I just locked in."
After a Johnson layup, Hannah was called for traveling in front of the Iowa State bench despite appearing to call a timeout. The turnover set up the Cyclones’ winning basket.
"The thing is you have to stay in front of him because he’s so quick off his dribble," said Dunson, who successfully trapped Hannah along with Jessan Gray to force the turnover.
Hannah made only 4 of 11 shots in the second half after going 3 for 3 in just nine minutes in the first half.
Taylor wouldn’t reveal if he gave his team a scouting report on his former teammate, but with some help from his teammates, Taylor earned his bragging rights - even if he chose not to brag.