Over the course of an 18-game conference schedule, teams are going to experience an ever-evolving narrative. For most teams, that's going to change from week to week and even game to game. Through 12 league contests, Iowa State certainly hasn't been immune to this fluctuation and as this unit plays through the ebbs and flows of Big 12 action, they find themselves yet again back in the conference title picture.
The Cyclones' Big 12 championship hopes have only been upgraded from flatlining to life support, but sitting only a game-and-half back of Kansas with six games to go, there's at least a chance. A championship-caliber outfit with the pedigree of the mighty Jayhawks will only provide a limited number of chances and as this regular season comes to a close, this may be the last window of opportunity Iowa State has to strike.
Having already split with Kansas, Iowa State will obviously need some help, but if the Cyclones can't cure their road woes, it will all be for naught. Those circumstances alone make this the most pivotal week of the season for Fred Hoiberg's crew as Iowa State will first travel to #22 Oklahoma State on Wednesday night and then remain on the road to battle Texas in Austin on Saturday.
The Previous Meeting
Oklahoma State came to Ames at what seemed like the perfect time to spring a road upset on the then #17 Cyclones and nearly did, taking a vulnerable Iowa State team to the wire before losing 63-61. The Cyclones had just had their confidence shattered three days earlier in an ugly loss to South Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and were clearly still licking their wounds when the Cowboys came to town.
Had it not been for a monster effort from Dustin Hogue, Iowa State's home winning streak may have come to a screeching halt. Hogue scored all 17 of his points in the second half, including 7 in the last two minutes and willed the Cyclones to victory. ISU was also propelled by hot shooting from Matt Thomas off the bench, who took the proverbial lid off the basket with two treys in the closing minutes of the first half.
Iowa State led by five at the break and stretched the lead to much as 11 early into the second half, but the Pokes went on a 20-8 run to put Oklahoma State up by 1 at the under-12 timeout. From there, it was never more than a two-possession game.
Phil Forte led the Cowboys with 21 points and Le'Bryan Nash wasn't far behind with 19 as the pair combined for 2/3rds of Oklahoma State's scoring output.
Catching Up With Oklahoma State
Since that meeting, the Cowboys had been about a .500 ball club until notching consecutive wins over Texas (in Austin), Kansas and at Baylor (all teams were ranked at the time). Oklahoma State looked like it was surging toward the top of the league until falling at TCU in a discouraging 15-point loss over the weekend.
The Cowboys pretty much remain a two-man unit offensively as Nash and Forte are combining for nearly 34 points a game and are easily the highest scoring duo in the Big 12. Both continue to log heavy minutes as well with Nash playing a little over 32 minutes per contest and Forte actually leads the league in minutes at just more than 35 per game.
Senior point man, Anthony Hickey had been playing much better of late, notching double-figure scoring efforts in four straight games before scoring only 6 points on 3-9 shooting in the loss to TCU. Michael Cobbins is the final member of Travis Ford's power quartet and has emerged as one of the best defensive post players in the Big 12, blocking nearly 2 shots a game (for those that care, Jameel McKay is second in conference play in blocks at 2.42 per game).
Getting consistent production from a fifth guy is still an issue that plagues this Cowboy team, but Jeff Newberry has averaged 12 points over his last three games, possibly alleviating those concerns going into March.
So Who Wins?
Iowa State notched its first win in Stillwater since 1988 with a triple-overtime classic a year ago, but claiming a second straight victory in Gallagher-Iba Arena will mean that the Cyclones are going to have to shake their current 4-game road losing streak in Big 12 play.
Winning on Wednesday night will be difficult enough as is, but given the recent history of these two teams, Iowa State is going to have be on top of their game for 40 minutes (or more). Iowa State has actually won four straight against the Cowboys, dating back to the '12-'13 campaign, but in the last three games, the Cyclones have won those contests by a combined 7 points. Actually, these two teams have rarely played anything but close games since The Mayor returned to Ames.
|1/19/11||Stillwater||96-87 (OT)||Oklahoma State (Eat shit Keiton Page)|
|1/18/12||Ames||71-68||Iowa State (Christopherson buzzer beater)|
|2/7/12||Stillwater||69-67||Oklahoma State (Eat shit Le'Bryan)|
|1/30/13||Stillwater||78-76||Oklahoma State (Eat shit Smart)|
|2/3/14||Stillwater||98-97 (OT)||Iowa State (3SUS Part I)|
|3/8/14||Ames||85-81 (OT)||Iowa State (3SUS Part Deux)|
Wow. Three of those games went to overtime, six of them were decided by four points or less and only one of those contests featured a double-digit margin of victory (which Iowa State won).
We as Iowa State fans have been on the right side of luck recently and between Naz Long and Scott Christopherson's buzzer beaters, it's logical to worry about whether or not the good fortune has been used up. Then again, you'd be forgetting that Keiton Page sent the 2011 contest to overtime by draining a game-tying 3 in the closing seconds. You'd also be forgetting Le'Bryan Nash's winner and subsequent victory-clinching block in the Cowboys' 69-67 win in 2012 and how about Marcus Smart draining a half-courter to end the first half in January of 2013?
The fact is when these two teams get together, the extraordinary becomes ordinary and I expect nothing less on Wednesday night. Hell, I'd even go so far as betting the naming rights to my first-born child that this game will be decided by 5 points or less (just kidding in case my wife is reading).
At some point tonight, something remarkable will happen and it will likely occur in the game's closing moments. I have absolutely no clue what it will be and from whom it will come, but it's assuredly going to happen.
I like Iowa State in this game, despite the recent road troubles, but I can't with any confidence believe that this Cyclone team has the mental fortitude to prevail in this spot until it actually happens.
Taking my best stab at what will happen, I think Iowa State will control the game for 30 minutes or so, only to see the Pokes battle back before Tavarius Shine (again, just guessing here) nails a dagger 3 with two seconds left to lift Oklahoma State to victory.
...and it will be just as painful as you can possibly imagine. Stock up on the liquor, boys (and girls), this one is going to sting.
Oklahoma State 79 - Iowa State 77
Tip: 8 PM CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Oklahoma State SB Nation Site: Cowboys Ride For Free