Sandwiched between road trips to Lawrence and Stillwater, Saturday's home contest against No. 23 Oklahoma was as close to a must-win game as you can get in February.
Win the Cyclones did, by the skin of their teeth — holding on down the stretch to top the Sooners, 81-75, days after lapses in execution cost ISU in a loss to Kansas.
Saturday afternoon at Hilton, Iowa State (16-4, 4-4 Big 12) scored when it needed to, grabbed rebounds when it needed to and got stops when it mattered most.
Heading into the media workroom to talk to players and coaches but here are some jottings I took during the game.
Breakaway dunk gave the Cyclones a 78-72 cushion with around 30 seconds remaining.
Still very active, jumping and contesting. Had three blocks in the first half, including a monster swat of Jordan Woodard heading into the 12-under media timeout. Also threaded a quick pass to Thomas on a backdoor cut.
Sometimes, Hogue is too active. Pogoing after a ball when a teammate has a better chance at it, while a nice display of energy, is reckless. Happened a few times Saturday and allowed the Sooners an offensive rebound off a deflection or in a scrum.
Pretty outlet pass to Morris for a 67-58 layup.
Made a pair of free throws to give ISU a 71-69 lead with less than two minutes left, then converted a layup for a 73-69 advantage (and played with four fouls the final 1:50).
Tied a career-high with 16 rebounds.
Poured in 15 more in the second half to set a career high with 27, no basket bigger than a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Cyclones a 76-70 lead with 50 seconds remaining, the Sooners following with a layup.
"It was obviously a huge shot," Fred Hoiberg said. "Put us up two possessions. No fear, no fear at all."
Niang fouled out with 28.1 second left on a contest of OU's Buddy Hield.
Really good first half, went 2-for-4 from three-point range and scored on a transition layup against Ryan Spangler — a sharp contrast in want-to after Thomas pulled away from Joel Embiid in a one-on-one transition opportunity Wednesday.
In the second half hit a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Cyclones a 62-52 advantage with 8:39 left.