KANSAS CITY -- Jameel McKay had only a moment to think, one split second to decide which way he should run. In the blink of an eye, the lanky forward took a giant leap toward the hoop. He appeared to be a split-second late.
McKay turned to watch Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler loft a potential game-tying layup from the right side. The shot bounced off the front of the rim and caromed off McKay’s right hand and then his left. He hadn’t blocked the shot, but the last-ditch effort and deflection off the miss kept Oklahoma from another shot and secured a 67-65 win for Iowa State that sends it to the Big 12 Championship finals.
“In the best wording possible, when I saw him turn to pass it to Spangler I think the words that went through my head were, ‘Oh no,’” Georges Niang said. “That’s what I’m going to tell you guys, but it was something else.”
“He missed,” Morris said. “We won’t complain about it.”
Iowa State fell behind by 11 in the first half as Oklahoma went hot from beyond the arc. A late spark of offense from Iowa State kickstarted its fourth double-figure comeback in as many games. The Cyclones went on a 10-0 run during a span of just more than three minutes late in the first half and went to the break tied at 29-all.
Before play resumed out of the break, McKay sat on the Iowa State bench perched back and hearing from coaches. He was down on himself after scoring four points in the game’s first half and feeling he missed opportunities.
“I had a nice little chat with Jameel at halftime,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he went out and just played with great energy [in the second half].”
McKay gave Iowa State a quick lead in the second half with a tip-in, and the Cyclones eventually extended it to eight nearly five minutes in behind 9-of-15 from the field. After missing its first nine 3-pointers, the Cyclones hit their next five.
"He just told me to stay positive,” McKay said of his conversation with Hoiberg. “When I’m not playing well I tend to over think things and he just told me to get back to playing basketball and be the player I can be. I tried to do that. I wanted to come out strong in the second half and I wanted to help contribute to a win.”
Oklahoma would come back to tie the game with just less than one minute to go as the game went back-and-forth. Before one last crucial stretch, McKay went to the bench again in disappointment.
“They made a play for me and I screwed the play up and I was a little disappointed in myself,” said McKay, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “I was like, ‘Man, can I get a break?’ When I came back in I just wanted to make a winning play.”
With Iowa State leading 62-61, McKay blocked a shot with 2:51 to play. On the other end, he took a miss by Niang and slammed it home. Then he blocked another shot back on defense as Iowa State eventually went up five late.
When Niang connected on one of two free throws with 9.7 seconds remaining, Oklahoma made its way down court in attempt to tie the game. McKay stood at the top of the paint. He had no time to think.
It was McKay’s final lunge that kept Iowa State alive in Kansas City.
“I just wanted to make any play necessary to win the game,” McKay said. “When it’s that close, you better give it all at that moment. I just wanted to do whatever. You’ve got to do it until the buzzer sounds.”