What are the chances? The 89 percent free throw shooter clanks the back end. The ball bounces right into the hands of Matt Thomas — no valuable seconds wasted. The Cyclones get the break going and Oklahoma State doesn't foul. And then Naz Long — who has done this before — pulls up from two feet beyond the three-point line.
From the beginning, the day and the game — No. 16 Iowa State versus surging Oklahoma State — was about Melvin Ejim. O Canada preceded the National Anthem, a fitting tribute to ISU's super senior. The fans chanted, "Hang his jersey." With Ejim fouling out after helping the Cyclones erase a 16-point deficit in the second half, and seconds remaining, it was now down to ISU's other Canadian.
The flight of the ball looked good right out of Long's hands. The buzzer rang as the orange dropped through the net. 71-71. Overtime. Hilton went delirious.
"It looked good and from that far you can't say, 'Yeah, you know for sure,'" Long said. "I put it up in the air, put good arc on it and it was in line. It felt good."
The extra five minutes was about DeAndre Kane, the senior point guard icing the contest after Matt Thomas' two free throws (84-81) with a defensive rebound, then one last free throw for Iowa State's 85-81 win to snap a two-game losing streak and garner some momentum heading into the Big 12 tournament.
As the pep band played "Sweet Caroline," Kane did a curtain call around Hilton Coliseum, slapping hands with fans and bowing to the crowd. The transfer from Marshall went 15-1 in his first season at Hilton.
"[The win] gives us a lot of confidence," Kane said. "We needed a game like this. We had lost two straight. It was huge for us. If we had lost this game we probable would have been down on ourselves a little bit."
In ISU's win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Long hit a three-pointer at the top of the key to send the game into another overtime.
"One thing Naz Long does not lack is confidence," coach Fred Hoiberg said.
OSU head coach Travis Ford said he was surprised the usually-reliable Forte missed a chance to win the game at the foul line but tried to have his players foul up three.
"We wanted to foul, we told our guys. They didn't hear or react," Ford said.
Kane and Long each recounted a conversation they had before Forte's second free throw attempt.
"I felt a little bit of positive vibes stemming from Kane because he said, 'Man, he's missing the second one.' I swear to you he said that.
"I just took off. I looked back and Kane got me the ball. I took a couple steps and knocked it down."
The win gives the Cyclones the regular season sweep over Oklahoma State and boosts their conference record to 11-7. Iowa State is in line for the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 to set up a contest Thursday against Kansas State in the conference's quarterfinals in Kansas City.