"We just didn't make the plays we should have made down the stretch," said Iowa State's Curtis Stinson. "Texas Tech played well and made plays. It got them back in the game. We made mistakes that hurt us."
Jared Homan was one of several players that were visually tired in the closing stretch. The senior center still managed to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds. But a 7-for-22 shooting performance showed his legs had left him.
"I feel like just like I messed up," said Homan, who had just two points in the second half. "I missed easy shots and I take the responsibility for that. I didn't feel like I had a good game. They were giving me easy shots in the first half. I should have contributed a little more in the second. They were really packing it in, double-teams, and so on. That was hard for our guards to drive and hard for me to post up."
Tech looked to be the tired team early in the second half, scoring just eight points in a span of more than 15 minutes. Although not very stellar on offense themselves, the Cyclones still managed to pull away to a 50-42 lead.
ISU had opened the second half on a 12-4 run and looked to be on the verge of putting its opponent away. If not for a lack of scoring punch, the Cyclones likely would have done so.
Stinson tried to account for ISU's lack of offense, scoring 16 of the team's 24 second-half points. But he could only do so much.
Freshman Rahshon Clark battled foul trouble the whole way and was limited. One night after scoring a career-high 20 points against Baylor, he was held scoreless in eight minutes and wasn't a factor down the stretch.
The Cyclones missed all six of their 3-point attempts and didn't have an answer outside the paint. Tasheed Carr missed all four of his shots, including two from outside the arc. As a team, ISU made just 38 percent of its shots from the field (26-of-68).
The shortcomings outside allowed the Red Raiders to crowd the paint, shutting down Homan and cutting down the driving lane for slashers Stinson and Will Blalock.
Blalock scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out five assists. But he missed a pair of 3-pointers – continuing on a late-season cold streak – and hit just 4-of-12 from the field.
"We didn't take that many threes as a team," Stinson said. "We didn't settle for that today. We tried to get it inside and work the big fellow and things were happening for us. We just came up a little short."
Tech had a lot to do with the Cyclones' struggles. After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half and creating numerous fast break opportunities for ISU, Coach Bob Knight's team committed just three in the final 20 minutes.
"We had a lot more opportunities to score in the second half than we did in the first half, and we did a much better job with the basketball," said Knight, whose team advanced to face top-seed Oklahoma Saturday in the semifinals.
The Cyclones dropped to 18-11 overall and will turn their focus to Selection Sunday, where they hope to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. Although it is up to the committee to decide whether his team makes the 65-teamfield, Cyclone head coach Wayne Morgan made his point…in a roundabout way.
"I am not going to make those decisions," he said. "I am not going to make those distinctions, because I am not on the committee. We won 10 out of the last 13 games, and just beat four teams in the top 25. The only other two teams that have done that have been Illinois and North Carolina."
Might the Cyclones be on edge until 5 o'clock rolls around on Sunday? Probably not, says Stinson.
"It's a regular day," he said. "Nothing changes. We won't sit back and cry and worry about Selection Sunday. We're just going to see what happens. We're not going to be stressed out worrying or anything. We will see what happens."