Still smarting from a 25-point loss at West Virginia, Fred Hoiberg told his troops before they took the court Saturday against Texas Tech that he wanted to get rid of the "terrible" taste in his mouth.
A couple hours later, a relieved Hoiberg cracked open a Diet Coke. The No. 11 Cyclones had won their seventh conference game, a 70-64 defeat of Texas Tech that didn't come so easily.
"We had to find a way to survive," Hoiberg said.
Just like they did in Lubbock on Jan. 4, the Red Raiders eliminated a big ISU second-half lead — climbing out of an 18-point hole and taking a 62-61 lead with three minutes remaining on a Jaye Crockett layup. Melvin Ejim responded with two of his 13 points on the next possession, then freshman guard Matt Thomas converted his first basket of afternoon, an and-one layup (Thomas missed the free throw).
Crockett scored again with 35 seconds left (68-64) but the Cyclones, despite missing three of the next four three throws, held on, thanks to a couple TTU misfires from deep. A Georges Niang dunk in transition allowed the 14,384 at Hilton Coliseum a sigh of relief.
"They fought back, give 'em credit," DeAndre Kane said of TTU. "We were fortunate to get out of there with a win.
"These games are tough. It's the Big 12. Every team's got players, they have a good coach."
Kane again came close to a triple-double, posting a 17-8-9 line. He and Niang paced the Cyclones with 17 points, while TTU's senior Crockett had a game-high 23.
Iowa State (19-5, 7-5 Big 12) moves into a tie with West Virginia for fifth-place in the Big 12, though the Mountaineers play at Texas later Saturday.
Sophomore guard Naz Long broke out of a recent slump — 3-for-17 from distance in ISU's prior four games — to drill 4 of 7 three-pointers.
The Cyclones were pleased with their defensive performance, especially after WVU hit better than 50 percent from the perimeter Monday, but admitted the Red Raiders' 16 second-chance points off 14 offense rebounds were too much.
"We did defend better, especially initially," Hoiberg said. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. If we can limit them to one shot, that's taking the next step."
Texas Tech (13-12) rolled into Ames winners of three straight, including at Oklahoma days ago.
"I guess it is [validation] to some degree but I thought we should have won the game," Smith said.
li>"The big thing I saw with [Long] while he was struggling was the tempo was way too quick. Once he started slowing down and saw the ball go in the basket."
"We took a couple plays off when we got up 18."
"It felt good. It always feels good to shoot it well."
"They're pretty efficient. They don't beat themselves, space the floor well and have a lot of ways to beat you. I look at their lineup — DeAndre, Niang, Melvin — they're all very talented players. They play unselfishly. That's the key."