Rushed Reactions: Iowa State 73, Oklahoma 66Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013
Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s covering the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City this weekend.
- Complete Implosion: For more than 30 minutes, Iowa State looked like it had just rolled out of bed and stumbled into the arena, still waiting for the Five Hour Energy to kick in. The Cyclones could not have played more poorly in the first half, and they didn’t make a three-pointer until the very end of the first half. Shots were clanking off the rim left and right, the Sooners were bullying them in the paint and on the boards, and and it appeared Fred Hoiberg’s team was about to make NIT travel plans. Midway through the second half, Oklahoma led 60-48. And then disaster struck for Lon Kruger. The Sooners did not make a field goal over the final 8:10 of the game, and Iowa State’s vaunted perimeter shooting finally awoke. With Korie Lucious on the bench after shooting 0-of-8 from the field, Will Clyburn began to run the offense, and he knocked down a few key shots late. Chris Babb did too, and Tyrus McGee shook off a tough morning to finally make a tie-breaking three-pointer late in the second half. All in all, the Cyclones finished the game on a 25-6 run, and they’re right in the thick of the NCAA Tournament at-large hunt. This was more than a comeback — it was a life-saving performance.
- Bubble Burst: We wrote yesterday that Iowa State probably had a little more of a sense of desperation in this game, but the Sooners really could have used this victory as well. They’re still in good shape with victories over Oklahoma State and Kansas — not to mention strong computer numbers — but this will not be an easy weekend for Kruger and his players. Either way, it’s been a heck of a turnaround for this program. Before the year, even an NIT berth seemed like somewhat of a reach. As for the Cyclones, they could probably seal a bid by knocking off Kansas in tomorrow’s semifinal. They’ll still be desperate, though, and that should make for an electric atmosphere at the Sprint Center. Speaking of that possible showdown…
- Rematch: Iowa State blew a late lead against Kansas in Lawrence and lost in overtime, thanks in part to a buzzer-beating, banked-in three by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. In the second match-up in Ames, a controversial no-call on a, well, obvious charge by Elijah Johnson late in the game made national headlines. Dare we say there’s a budding rivalry? “I can’t wait for the opportunity if they win today,” Clyburn said. “I want some payback.” Careful, though. Kansas still needs to beat Texas Tech this afternoon.
Star of the Game: Melvin Ejim. He was huge. The league’s leading rebounder, Ejim’s pride must have taken a hit when Oklahoma came out punching in the first half and dominated the rebounding margin. At one point, the Sooners were +9 on the boards, and that’s just not acceptable for a team that normally rebounds as well as ISU. As the game progressed, though, Ejim started to do his thing. Georges Niang had a few important offensive rebounds, too, and by the end of the game, Iowa State had out-rebounded Oklahoma by 10. Ejim scored 23 points to lead all scorers, too, and finished with 12 rebounds individually. Another day, another double-double for Ejim.
Sights and Sounds: Iowa State has perhaps the most underrated fan base in college sports. The Cyclones hadn’t won a Big 12 Tournament game in seven years, but they brought an enormous contingent to Kansas City. With their team’s NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy, the loud and proud Cyclone fans made the building shake during Iowa State’s comeback. Let’s give them a little credit for the victory, though it’ll be out-numbered tomorrow by the nearby Jayhawk fan base (assuming KU wins its quarterfinal).
Wildcard: Korie Lucious had an odd game. He missed all eight shots from the field, but he had nine assists and has been so important to this team all year at point guard. In the game’s critical moments, however, Hoiberg opted to let Clyburn bring the ball up the court. He also inserted everybody’s favorite glue guy, former walk-on Bubu Palo. It may not have been the most popular or easy decision, but it paid off for Hoiberg. And you can bet Lucious will get another chance to contribute on Friday.
Quotable: “He’s Canadian, so he’s tough. He played with a bloody lip there in the second half.” — Fred Hoiberg, talking about Melvin Ejim.
What’s Next: Iowa State faces the winner of Kansas/Texas Tech in the semifinals on Friday night.