The Iowa State locker room was a mixture of anger and remorse after the Cyclones’ lost to Kansas last month. But mostly anger.
“Coach came in there, and he was fired up,” Iowa State guard Tyrus McGee said.
All of the Cyclones were that night, sure that an opportunity for victory had been seized by the officials. Because it was the second crushing loss to the Jayhawks, the only chance to meet KU again, short of a long NCAA Tournament run, would be in the Big 12 Tournament.
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Iowa State’s 73-66 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday coupled with Kansas’ smackdown of Texas Tech has aligned the squads that played two of the most entertaining games in college basketball this season. KU and Iowa State will meet in the first Big 12 semifinal at 6:30 Friday night.
“I want Kansas, man,” Cyclones guard Will Clyburn said before knowing KU was the opponent. “They beat us twice this year.”
Both games determined in overtime, the first on a Ben McLemore banked three-pointer, and second on a controversial call.
The quick recap: Iowa State led by a bucket when Jayhawks guard Elijah Johnson collided with the Cyclones’ Georges Niang under the basket on a drive. Both players hit the deck and no call was made. But Niang was whistled for a holding call on the floor. Johnson made the two free throws for overtime, and Kansas won 108-96.
Iowa State fans reacted with fury, including one who had to be restrained from KU coach Bill Self by a security guard. The Big 12 acknowledged incorrect calls were made and punished two officials by reducing future assignments.
And the Cyclones had a bad reaction, losing at Oklahoma by 17 the next time out.
“I really thought we were affected by it that night,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You could see our guys getting antsy.”
About the NCAA Tournament. Resume building opportunities were slipping away. But the Cyclones ended the regular season with a solid home victory over then-No. 13 Oklahoma State, didn’t slip up at West Virginia, and claimed another profile triumph on Thursday.
But it wasn’t easy. The Sooners controlled things for 30 minutes. Iowa State, the nation’s most productive team beyond the three-point arc, missed its first 10 and 16 of its first 18 as Oklahoma took a 13-point lead with 9½ minutes remaining.
Iowa State finally found its stroke. Niang, Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee threw in threes over the next six minutes, with McGee’s step-back bomb giving the Cyclones a 66-63 edge.
Melvin Ejim, who led Iowa State with 23 points and 12 rebounds, provided perhaps the biggest shot, a 15-footer through traffic as the shot clock was winding down for a 68-64 edge.
Oklahoma went the final 8:10 without a field goal.
And Iowa State gets the opponent that has torn its heart out twice.
“The third time’s the charm,” McGee said.