MINNEAPOLIS -- A lady approached Iowa State's Marcus Fizer before yesterday's game after recognizing him from last week's Sports Illustrated cover.
"So you're what all the fuss is about," she said. Fizer grinned and answered, "Just watch the game later."
Iowa State's supporting cast backed Fizer's claim by assuming the lead roles yesterday during a slow start by its first-team All-American as the Cyclones stormed past seventh-seeded Auburn, 79-60, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
No. 2 Iowa State (31-4) treated the partisan Cyclones crowd of 26,328 with the school's first back-to-back seasons of advancing to the Sweet 16. Winners of nine straight, the Cyclones will play UCLA on Thursday at the Midwest Regional semifinals in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Trailing 41-38 early in the second half and Fizer mired in a 2-for-10 shooting slump, Iowa State turned to its backcourt of Jamaal Tinsley and Michael Nurse.
With Auburn's 1-3-1 zone still sagging on Fizer, Tinsley hit consecutive three-pointers and Nurse converted all the free throws after being fouled on a three-pointer to close out a 14-2 run. That lifted the Cyclones to a 52-43 lead with 10: 50 left and they never let the margin dip below seven points thereafter.
"Everyone wants to identify me as Cyclones basketball," Fizer said. "It's just another day, another game that proves me right. I couldn't do it all by myself.
"Continue to play us that way. Continue to hold me to six points in the first half. Do that and Mikey, Jamaal and Stevie [Johnson] will continue to light it up."
Nurse, Tinsley and Johnson combined for 40 of Iowa State's 52 points (77 percent) that staked the Cyclones to that nine-point lead. Fizer finished with a game-high 22 points, but 11 of them came in the final 10 minutes.
"It's amazing," Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy said. "We're a two seed and still fighting for respect. This team is good and it's a lot more than one person."
Auburn (24-10) concentrated its defense on Fizer, and it worked for a little over a half. The Tigers clogged the middle with their zone and doubled Fizer when they switched to man-to-man.
Offensively, the Tigers attacked Fizer inside and knocked down their outside shots to put Iowa State on its heels. After Daymeon Fishback's three-pointer, Auburn had a 41-38 cushion 3: 12 into the second half.
Then, the Tigers lost track of the Cyclones' other four starters as well as their own shooting touch. Auburn made seven of 28 field-goal attempts (25 percent) the remainder of the game.
"I thought in the first half we did a great job of containing Fizer and Iowa State," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "They're a great basketball team, and the results speak for themselves."