For so many different reasons this could have been the defining moment of the 2004-05 season. Not only did the Cyclones knock off their second ranked opponent in as many weekends, but they also ended the dreadful Big 12 road losing streak that stretched back to the days Jamaal Tinsley.
The way in which Iowa State did so added to this defining moment. After blowing a five-point halftime lead, it trailed by a 67-63 margin with time running down. But thanks to some clutch plays from Will Blalock, the team rallied to force overtime. It was all Cyclones from there, as Tasheed Carr scored 13 points in the extra session to lead his team to a thrilling 92-80 win over the Longhorns.
Cutting Out the Excess Fat
Depth was thought to be one of the strengths of this year's team on media day, as head coach Wayne Morgan spoke of the possibility of an 11-man rotation. Little did he know that one of his squad's strengths at the end would be the chemistry and togetherness of a six and a half-man rotation. ISU hated to lose JUCO transfer Anthony Davis, who missed the balance of the Big 12 season after shoulder surgery. But it wasn't so sorry to see Reggie George and Robert Faulkner go.
George was dismissed from the team early in the conference season for personal reasons. Faulkner was ruled academically ineligible for the second semester, and was later dismissed from the squad for other reasons. The moves made sense for chemistry reasons. However, it did cost the team some depth in the post as Jared Homan and Damion Staple were the only two posts remaining.
Cutting Through the Phog
It was all but sealed up. The Cyclones owned a nine-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining and were on the verge of snapping Kansas' 32-game conference home winning streak. Little did ISU fans know, their team would need an overtime period to finish the job. The Jayhawks rallied to force the extra session and would take a 3-point lead before Curtis Stinson took over. The sophomore guard, who scored 29 points in the game, hit the clincher in the lane with 5.1 seconds remaining.
When looking back on this game, it was probably the one victory this team needed to become more of an NCAA contender instead of pretender. ISU did what no other conference team did this season, win at the legendary Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Busting Through the Wall
Just as Cyclone fans were ready to write their team off in late January, they were also ready to call Morgan's first recruiting class as head coach a bust. Tasheed Carr and Rahshon Clark suffered more ups and downs as ISU dropped its first five games of the Big 12 slate. ISU had the big three of Stinson, Blalock, and Homan, but were badly in need of some help from its role players.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the team's resurgence coincided with Carr and Clark busting through the freshman wall. Carr busted out with 22 points at Texas, then added 17 and 13 against Texas Tech and Kansas State in consecutive games. His outside shooting helped take the pressure off his fellow guards and made defenses respect ISU's perimeter game.
Clark scored in double figures in the first four games of the Cyclones' midseason winning streak. In two victories over Baylor, the freshman wing man scored a combined 39 points. He also displayed a nice shooting touch from the outside.
Mile High in Boulder
Flying high after a seven-game winning streak and four wins over top-25 teams in consecutive weekends, ISU crash landed with a loss on the road Texas A&M and in Hilton against Nebraska. Even with the Cyclones' work against ranked teams, their resume still needed one more road win.
That would come in a 78-73 triumph over Colorado in the conference finale. More importantly, it gave them a winning record in one of the nation's best conferences. After not winning a conference road game in more than three seasons, ISU finished with a 4-4 mark this season.
Three more worth mentioning…
1. Non-conference victory over then 19th-ranked Virginia. (Gave team an early shot of confidence)
2. Blowing out Baylor in the first round of the conference tourney. (Was enough to land ISU in the Big Dance)
3. Last one standing in Lincoln. (Proved that win over Texas three days earlier was not a fluke)