It's about damn time. After 18-straight excruciating losses in Stillwater, Iowa State finally came out with a victory. Time after time, the Cyclones managed to deliver and pulled out a clutch win in triple-OT, 98-97, that could set this team up for a serious run going forward.
This instant classic will be talked about for years to come and rightfully so. I'm still trying to catch my breath and can't believe what I just saw. 1988. That was the last time Iowa State won in Stillwater. As the ESPN crew pointed out multiple times, not one single player on the Iowa State roster was alive the last time the Cyclones won at Oklahoma State. Hell, Fred Hoiberg was a freshman at Ames High. This was an outstanding win for this team and this program and this puts Iowa State right back into the the thick of things in the Big 12 race.
The DeAndre Kane-Marcus Smart battle lived up to the hype and then some. In the second half, these two went at each other on what seemed like every possession and the final numbers show just why these two are among the best in the country. Smart finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds, but this was Kane's night. The Marshall transfer scored 26 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out 9 assists and most importantly, willed his team to a crucial road win. Smart is going to be a top five pick in June's NBA draft, but tonight, Kane > Smart.
- So much to get to, but I want to start with Melvin Ejim. The senior had a double-double with 10 minutes left to play in regulation, but wasn't exactly having a good game. He was turning the ball over, failing to finish at the rim and he picked up his fourth foul with about 8 minutes left, sending him to the bench when Iowa State needed him most. I don't know what happened while he was on the bench, but once he got back into the game, he showed tremendous poise and played like the pre-season first team all-conference pick he was. Ejim finished the night with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but managed to play the last few minutes of regulation and all three overtimes without fouling out and knocked down some huge shots, especially from the free throw line. It wasn't exactly a highlight game from Ejim, but he continued to fight and gave a superb effort in the extra periods.
- Prior to Kane and Ejim taking over, this was Georges Niang's game. The Cowboys had no answer for Niang in the first half as he scored 13 points in the opening stanza and looked unstoppable. Oklahoma State made adjustments to start the second half and foul trouble ultimately did Niang in, but the sophomore managed to fill out the stat sheet with 17 points on 8-15 shooting while also grabbing 5 rebounds, handing out 4 assists and making an impact on the defensive end with 3 steals and 2 blocks.
- How about the return of Dustin Hogue? After a few less than stellar efforts, Hogue got back into the double-double groove, scoring 10 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Hogue also came up with a monster block against Le'Bryan Nash at the end of regulation that allowed Iowa State an opportunity to go for the win.
- Finally, the play of the young guards. It's something we've been talking about all year and tonight, each of Monte Morris, Matt Thomas and Naz Long made an impact. Morris, making his second start played nearly 50 minutes of turnover free basketball and hit one of the biggest shots of the game, sinking a three near the end of the 3rd OT to give Iowa State a one-point lead. Thomas didn't have a stellar shooting night, but did knock down two threes and played pretty solid defense throughout. And then there's Naz Long. 3sus has risen! What a freaking shot by the sophomore! Iowa State was dead to rights in the second overtime, down three with less than 15 seconds left. Matt Thomas had just missed a three (he was fouled) and DeAndre Kane looked like he was going to hoist an off-balance trey for the tie before thinking better of it and skipping one over to Long. Now, let's stop and think about that for a second. Kane had put Iowa State on his back and had every right to take that shot in the second OT, but he opted to get the ball to a teammate who had been ice cold from outside recently because A) he recognized that Long had a great look and B) as Kane said in the post game, he believed in Long. 3sus delivered and the rest is history.
- And now griping time. First off, I'm a huge fan of Marcus Smart's, but I have to call a spade a spade. He's a despicable flopper and it's a shame that a guy that talented would let his game be tainted by such a shameful reputation. I mean, credit it to him because it mostly works, but he's too good of a player to have his skill overshadowed by that flopping bullshit.
- Next, is the officiating. I'm not going to sour a great win like this by trashing the refs, but my goodness. The final foul disparity was pretty even, but what in the hell was going on in this game? Oklahoma State seemed to get every call in the paint while on the other end, Iowa State continually came away from possessions with not so much as a hint to a foul call. Again, the final outcome is all that matters, but there were plenty of questionable calls to point to had this one gone the other way.
- Now, a little credit to toss the Cowboys' way. I'm so impressed with the way Le'Bryan Nash has matured as a basketball player. He's always had the talent, but didn't seem to either have the drive or the smarts to put it all together. Lately though, he's been showing why he was so highly coveted out of high school. He's not a great jump shooter, but he dominated the paint on both ends despite being undersized and he's making himself some serious money with his play lately.
- Ending on a high note, I mentioned in the open that this win could set Iowa State up for a serious run going forward. We've been talking about it for some time, but look at these next six games. TCU at home, at West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas at home, at TCU and then back home against West Virginia. You have to like Iowa State in at least five of those games with only the roadie against the Mountaineers and the home date against the Longhorns as the only real toss ups. Iowa State now sits at 5-4 in conference play and it's not unreasonable at all to think they could be sitting at 11-4 going into March.
- For some other excellent game notes, check out Cyclones.com's recap of the game here. Of note, Ejim passed Jeff Grayer for fourth in school history in total rebounds.
Enjoy this one fellas (and ladies). Oklahoma State might not be the Final Four-caliber team we thought they'd be in the pre-season, but this is a great win.