AMES, IOWA — The moment Monte Morris possessed the ball, there was never a doubt what would come next. His eyes were on the prize and his mind on redemption.
There was no second-guessing. Gun-shy?
“Nah,” Morris said afterward.
Only 16 days earlier Morris stood up the ramp in Norman, Okla., talking of revenge after Iowa State had stepped on its own toes in a narrow loss to Oklahoma. Morris had kicked one ball out of bounds late and missed the potential game-winner next. Now he stood there deflated, his headphones pulled up just above his ears and his head looking down.
He was deflated and yet not defeated knowing the Sooners would still need to descend upon Ames in only two week’s time.
“You make some,” Morris said flatly then, “you miss some.”
So as Morris moved the ball from left to right late Monday, and as Jameel McKay flashed to the top, there was no question. Monte Morris was taking the shot. When the clock hit 25 seconds the attack began and his pace quickened. He drove the right wing, took a quick step in toward the free throw line to shake the double team, stepped back and released a fadeaway jumper in one fluid motion as his defender lunged.
With a shade more than 21 seconds remaining, the 18-footer floated smoothly as a sold out Hilton Coliseum crowd held its collective breath. The shot sank through and free throws did the rest. No. 19 Iowa State never trailed again, upending No. 1 Oklahoma, 82-77, to cement only the second win against a top-ranked team in school history.
“I’ve just got to take the shot,” Morris said. “My teammates had confidence in me to take the shot and I was going to take it. I was going to live with the results. I was going to make or miss it, and it was my lucky night.”
Defeating this unanimously top-ranked Oklahoma team would take more than luck.
Iowa State and Oklahoma exchanged the lead eight times in a thrilling, fast-paced first half, but the Cyclones ultimately held the lead at the break. Trailing by four with just less than five minutes before halftime, Iowa State used a 14-4 run to close the period with a six-point lead. The run was helped by Georges Niang scoring 10 of Iowa State's final 14 points and by a defensive effort that saw Oklahoma miss eight of its final 10 shots.
That combination of offense and defense helped extend Iowa State’s lead to 10 only 84 seconds into the second half, but Oklahoma methodically chipped away. Some nine minutes later, the Sooners recaptured the lead when Dante Buford connected on one of his team’s 17 3-pointers from nearly halfcourt with two seconds on the shot clock.
The heavyweight back-and-forth was on.
"It's fun basketball,” Morris said. “That's why you lace up.”
Iowa State jabbed first by building its lead to eight with a 10-0 run as Oklahoma went scoreless for nearly four minutes. The Sooners countered with an 8-0 run of their own in 90 seconds to even the score.
“Coach has really challenged us, ‘When people count you out, can you stick together?’” said Niang, who finished with 22 and became the winningest player in Iowa State history. “All of us have our own goals and aspirations, but we know we need each other and this season. I think the biggest thing is really after we hit rock bottom we came together and realized where I have flaws, Monte has to pick me up, where Monte has flaws, Jameel has to pick him up and down through the line.”
With the game tied at 70-all and just more than two minutes remaining, Niang drove and dished the ball to a wide-open Morris in the corner. Here he was again, wide open just as he had been in Oklahoma when his potential game-winning three bounced off the rim.
“When I didn’t come through for my teammates that night, it hurt me,” Morris said Monday. “At the same time in this league you’ve got to stay even-keeled because you’ve got to see this team again.”
Morris rose, fired and connected for a three-point lead.
“The 3 in the corner was huge,” coach Steve Prohm said. “It was a money shot.”
Yet with 41 seconds remaining, Oklahoma struck back to make it 75-all.
Prohm huddled the team and drew up a play. Morris would take the ball.
“I dreamed about having the opportunity to do it all over again,” Morris said of the game in Norman. “I’ve been staying in the gym, and the basketball gods always look out for you when you pay back to them.”
So Morris drove and then watched his shot float through the air in this second chance.
As the clock ticked down, from 23 to 22 to 21, Morris backpedaled further down the court. From the same side of the court where he watched his shot miss 16 days prior in Oklahoma, Morris now watched it sink through the net in Ames.
“The chips fell my way tonight,” Morris said with a smile in the Hilton Coliseum tunnel late Monday. “They probably won’t fall my way every night, but they fell my way tonight.”