You hear that sound? That's the entire Cyclone nation breathing a sigh of relief. The Cyclones picked up just their second win in their last six games, besting Oklahoma by a final score of 81-75.
Iowa State managed to hold off a gritty Sooner squad that simply wouldn't concede this game, despite being down by 3-4 possessions numerous times in the second half. Oklahoma managed to get to just one point at 69-68, but Iowa State responded and a late three by Georges Niang all but sealed the deal as ISU evened up their conference record at 4-4.
This was Iowa State's fifth win over a ranked opponent and a crucial game for the Cyclones as they travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State on Monday night, wrapping up a seven-game gauntlet.
Fred Hoiberg opted to switch things up, starting freshman Monte Morris for the first time and it appeared to pay off. The Cyclones did trail 10-4 off the opening tip, but promptly responded and held the lead for most of the first half before Ryan Spangler banked in a shot at the buzzer to knot things up at 37.
- We absolutely have to start with the efforts of Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim. Niang poured in a career high, 27 points, hitting on 10-16 from the field, 3-7 from deep and a perfect 4-4 from the line. Every time Iowa State needed a score, Niang delivered and his three with under a minute left reminded me of Chris Babb's treys against Oklahoma in last year's Big 12 tournament and his clincher against Kansas in 2012. Huge stones on Georges for not only attempting that shot, but draining it. As for Ejim, he turned in a monster game, scoring 22 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Iowa State was dominated on the glass, but Ejim did just enough to keep an aggressive Sooner team at bay and the Cyclones needed every one of those 16 rebounds.
- DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue simply couldn't put the ball in the basket on Saturday, but each guy found other ways to impact the game. For Kane, he dished out 9 assists and Hogue came up with 4 blocks.
- Iowa State's freshman guards played perhaps their best games today. Matt Thomas, beleaguered by shooting woes for what seems like weeks, knocked down 3-5 of his three-point attempts and scored 13 points. He also grabbed 4 rebounds, handed out 3 assists and came up with 2 steals. He's playing with confidence right now and has looked like a different player over his last three games. Morris made the most of his first career start, scoring 12 points, hitting 2-3 from outside and knocking down all 4 of his free throws. He played 35 minutes and while he only had 1 assist to 2 turnovers, Morris showed why he's going to be a fixture in the starting lineup for the next 3 1/2 years. Very encouraging to to see this duo perform like they did on Saturday.
- If you followed the game thread, I made mention multiple times to my frustration with Iowa State's inability to hold/sustain a lead. Iowa State had what seemed like countless opportunities to blow this game open, but allowed Oklahoma back into the game every time. Oklahoma deserves a lot of credit for their resiliency, but it was aggravating to see those 7-9 leads disappear so quickly.
- And while we're on gripes, I'm not sure if Oklahoma is just a bad match up for Iowa State, but I do not want to see this team again. In two games the Sooners have grabbed 27 offensive rebounds against ISU and feasted off second chance opportunities.
- But enough about the bad stuff. This was a very good win. Yes it was at home and yes, Iowa State was a 2-3 possession favorite, but this Oklahoma team is one of the most difficult match ups in the country and Iowa State proved to be the better team today.