An unprintable medley of thoughts dashed through Fred Hoiberg's head as Zach McCabe launched an open three-pointer with a few seconds left.
The ball clanked off the rim and after a couple put-back attempts, the buzzer sounded. Nightmare avoided.
For the second consecutive game, Hoiberg faced a foul-or-let-play dilemma up three with seconds to play. Electing to let the game play out against Northern Iowa, the Cyclones watched the Panthers bury a three and take the game into overtime (and Iowa State won't soon forget last season's Ben McLemore moment.
Up three against Iowa with 12 seconds left, Hoiberg wanted to foul. A lapse in miscommunication — it looked like Melvin Ejim thought Monté Morris was going to foul ball-handler Mike Gesell, led McCabe to having a world of space. As Ejim scrambled back to the line, with his hand in the air, a collective crowd held its breath.
"It was a lucky moment," Ejim said. "But that's what it takes sometimes."
Hoiberg afterward looked like he had gone 12 times too many on the merry go-round. Jolted, out of breath. A Diet Coke helped steady him.
"I'm so shaken a little bit because I just expected that thing to go in," he said. "The fans were loud and the rim was maybe shaking a bit and it bounced out."
After being burned twice in two years by a late dagger, Hoiberg tipped his hand Friday night as to his preferred strategy. But it's almost damned-if-they-do and damned-if-they-don't. Late-game execution has been rocky for Iowa State in that regard, but the Cyclones bounce along at 8-0, three top-shelf wins — Michigan, at BYU, 85-82 over Iowa — sparkling atop their resume.