Just like last time, the Cyclones had tied the game on a three-pointer with not much time left. And just like last time, the opponent hit a dagger from distance and — yep — just like last time, the Cyclones unraveled from there.
This time the culprit was Brady Heslip, who pump-faked Naz Long in transition then moved to his left along the perimeter before firing the de-facto game-winning three to give the Bears a 64-61 lead with 2:16 left.
The No. 15 Cyclones didn't score again, falling 74-61.
It's the second consecutive loss for Iowa State (22-7, 10-7 Big 12), which will almost assuredly have to face Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals now, assuming the Cyclones can win their Thursday quarterfinals.
DeAndre Kane kept ISU alive Tuesday in Waco, hitting five of nine three-pointers against BU's amorphous 2-3/1-3-1 zone defense on his way to 20 points, but the other two members of ISU's Big Three struggled: Melvin Ejim scored six points on 3-for-14 shooting, Georges Niang, plagued by foul trouble, never got in a rhythm and went 2-for-11 from the field for four points.
If there's a common theme in ISU's last three losses (Baylor, at KSU, at WVU), it's the collective struggle of the Cyclones' Big Three — against the Wildcats Niang managed seven points while Ejim and Kane put on a show and versus the Mountaineers Ejim went 1-for-9 while Kane and Niang at least scored more than 10.
There's not enough consistent scoring juice from Dustin Hogue, Monté Morris, Naz Long or Matt Thomas to keep the Cyclones afloat when one or two of the Ejim/Kane/Niang troika struggles.
Iowa State has had its chances to solidify a better Big 12 seeding, which would in turn give it a chance at a better NCAA seed, but at this moment, the Cyclones look like a No. 3 NCAA seed in San Antonio.
Concerns over the team's abilities away from Hilton Coliseum have bubbled up, ISU going 3-6 on the road in the Big 12, but the Cyclones did go 4-0 at neutral sites earlier in the year, beating two kenpom.com top-100 teams in Northern Iowa and Boise State.
For now, ISU has to regroup for Saturday's home contest against a feisty Oklahoma State team. At least the Cyclones have safely secured a bye for the first round of the Big 12 — and at this point you wonder if they'd rather be the No. 6 seed* in the tourney and avoid KU until Saturday, although that wouldn't look very good on an NCAA résumé.
The stakes are about to rise, each possession about to increase in importance. Fans of the Cyclones are hoping the team that outlasted Michigan and Iowa in close games — when the calendar still read 2013 — is the one that'll show up in the next two tournaments, and not the one that crumbled in crunch time the last two times out.
*ISU would have to lose Saturday while West Virginia beats Oklahoma in Norman and a Joel Embiid-less KU team in Morgantown.