NORMAN, OKLA. — Iowa State had a shot at completing a rarity in its Big 12 opener against Oklahoma on Saturday only to have a small set of rare and uncharacteristic errors spoil it.
While the two Big 12 heavyweights traded punches throughout this fast-paced thriller, No. 11 Iowa State learned the cruelty of each small bounce of a basketball on this night as it stumbled late and watched No. 3 Oklahoma take advantage of the miscues and missed opportunities en route to an 87-83 victory.
“It’s just the bounce of the ball some nights,” guard Monte Morris said.
In this instance, it was four particular bounces.
Iowa State led by as many as 11 points in the first half at the Lloyd Noble Center and led or was tied for one span of 29 minutes, 30 seconds before Oklahoma used a pair of clutch 3-pointers and a set of costly Iowa State turnovers late to alter the game’s direction and finally its outcome.
The Cyclones surged to the first-half lead behind 15 points from Georges Niang, who finished with 29 points (13-of-18) in the loss. Iowa State likewise gave itself a chance down the stretch by limiting Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, who scored 22 points overall, to eight second-half points.
Yet while the Cyclones controlled the scoreboard for the majority of the night, the Sooners’ late run proved to be unmatched when Isaiah Cousins drilled consecutive 3-pointers down the stretch. His first came at 5:29 to give Oklahoma its first lead since the 14:59 mark of the first half and his second came seconds later at 4:45 to retake the lead for the final time after the Cyclones had countered.
“We competed and had a great chance,” coach Steve Prohm said. “That’s what is sickening, really. It’s hard to win on the road, obviously, in this league.”
Those missed chances, afterward, became magnified.
The first miscue came when Niang had the ball poked away with the Cyclones down two following Cousins’ second 3. The second came one minute later, again with Iowa State down two, as Niang missed the front end of one-and-one free throws.
“It kills me because there were a couple late-game turnovers that really swayed the pace of the game,” Niang said of the loss afterward. “But that’s something I’m going to work on going forward.”
Yet Iowa State still had a shot.
With 82 seconds remaining and Iowa State down two, Morris found himself in a situation none who have seen him play can remember. He dribbled the ball on his foot and it shot straight out of bounds.
“It’s rare,” Morris said of the turnover. “I don’t know how it happened. I honestly don’t know how it happened. I looked down like, ‘Wow.’ I’ve never done that in my life. Like ever. It’s strange. You move forward. That, a couple missed free throws and just the bounce of the ball. You can’t put your head down.”
Iowa State countered an Oklahoma basket when Niang floated one in. The Cyclones’ fourth and final late chance came when Morris stole the ball from Ryan Spangler and shot an open 3-pointer with a shade over five seconds remaining.
That shot bounced into the air and free throws sealed Iowa State’s fate.
“I think the difference was they just made a few more plays late in the game,” Matt Thomas said. “They threw a punch, we threw a punch pretty much the whole game. I thought we were in control most of the game and late they just made a few extra plays and came out on top tonight.”