New York, NY—There were several reasons why the UConn Huskies defeated the Iowa State Cyclones by five points in the Sweet Sixteen contest played at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. The Huskies shot better than 50% from the floor in each half while holding the Cyclones to 31% in the first half. The disparity between the two teams was even greater from the free throw line. The Cyclones missed 9 of its 15 shots, but the Huskies netted 20 of 22.
Dustin Hogue, although only a junior at Iowa State, had full appreciation of playing in the Mecca of basketball on Friday night. After the game he explained to reporters how special the night was to him, “It was definitely a beautiful experience for me. I’ve come a long way in my basketball career to have this opportunity [Sweet Sixteen and Madison Square Garden]. We didn’t come out with a win, but to play in the Garden is something I dreamed about as a kid. So this opportunity was special.”
What made Friday night so special to Hogue? He is the only player on his team from the New York area, being born just north of the NYC line in Yonkers. He was a devoted fan of the New York Knicks as a child, yet he was never able to attend a basketball game in MSG until he played in one on Friday.
Hogue played basketball at Lincoln High in Yonkers and AAU ball for the New York Gauchos in the Bronx, yet he received no scholarship offers from any Division I schools. He later looked back sadly, “I got zero, no looks, especially from the Big East; that hurt the most.” The hurt was probably intensified because his older brother, Douglas, was drafted by the Detroit Lions of the NFL.
Hogue, who wished to play basketball, attended Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa for the next two years. ISU assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, a native of Brooklyn, recognized the ability of the previously overlooked baller and recruited him for Iowa State before this season began.
Hogue justified the faith of his coach by his outstanding play in his first year of D.1 ball in a superior conference, the Big 12. The forward started all 36 games his team played. He averaged 10.9 points per game, shot a percentage of .556 from the floor and was second in rebounding in the Big 12 (8.5).
The NCAA Tournament became his opportunity to show he belonged with the best. In the first round victory over North Carolina Central, he scored 15 and grabbed 5 boards. In the second round game against North Carolina, he netted 14 and had 7 rebounds.
After the NC game, his teammate senior Deandre Kane praised the New Yorker in the highest terms, “He’s the fuel of the engine. Without Dustin, I don’t know where we would be. He’s the heart and soul of this team.”
He proved the truth of those statements and more by how he played against Connecticut in the Garden. He netted 15 of 19 from the floor while his teammates shot 17 of 50. He was successful in 4 of 6 free throws, but his teammates missed 7 of 9 attempts. Along with his 34 points, he hauled down 6 rebounds and stole the ball twice.
To be able to show his skill on the biggest basketball stage and so near his home meant a great deal to the 21 year-old, “I had a lot of people from home and to have this opportunity all together is just unbelievable for me.”