The 6-9, 215-pound McKay only had five points and six rebounds while playing 26 minutes in the Cyclones 63-61 victory over the Cowboys on Jan. 6 in Ames, Iowa.
But he looked like an entirely different player Wednesday night. He again played 26 minutes but had game highs of 17 points, 14 rebounds (nine offensive boards) and four blocked shots as the Cyclones rallied to score the game’s final nine points for just their third road victory of the season.
“We just got annihilated on the glass, out-toughed inside. That was the difference in the game,” said Ford, whose team was out-rebounded 44-28, allowing Iowa State 18 offensive rebounds. “They had a guy in there (McKay) that just had a tremendous, tremendous effort. He was jumping twice a lot of times when we were jumping once.”
"There is really nothing else to talk about in the game but that. They just out-toughed us in the paint. They had one player that was so much better than anyone else we had in the paint, and that's very disappointing. One guy, basically. We should have had guys in there … Mitchell Solomon has an excuse because he’s a freshman, but there’s no other excuses after that.”
"We just got out-toughed, plain and simple. We had our opportunities. It wasn't like bad bounces or anything like that. They just wanted it more. For whatever reason, our guys just weren't competing in the paint or competing for offensive rebounds. I don't think that (McKay) is that much better than us, but he was tonight.”
Even with McKay playing like not only an All-Big 12 player but an All-American and OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte combining to make only 7 of 24 field goals the Cowboys still had their chance to win, leading 65-61 following Nash’s fallaway jumper with about 2:20 remaining in the game.
The Cyclones would score the game’s final nine points while forcing the Cowboys into a couple of bad shots and a turnover on their final few possessions. Iowa State converted on its final three possessions – a Georges Niang tip in off a miss, Dustin Hogue’s three-pointer from in front of the Cyclones bench, and Niang’s basket with 20 seconds showing on the clock – and then McKay sewed it up with two free throws after grabbing his 14th rebound.
The Cowboys trailed 68-65 following Niang’s basket with 20 seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, they drew up a play to run Forte off a couple of screens in hopes of getting him a good three-point opportunity. That didn’t happen and he found a wide open Jeff Newberry, who was a perfect 5-for-5, including making all both of his three-point attempts.
But his shot bounced off the rim into McKay’s hands. Who else would pull down the game-clinching rebound on this night?
"He was about the third option,” Ford said. “We were trying to get Phil (Forte) a shot off two screens from our big guys. I guess (Newberry) could've been the second (option), because after that we wanted Forte to drive and kick it at that point. He was going to draw a lot of help. It's as good of a shot as you can expect that late. We had our opportunities, but they just out-toughed us in the paint.”
Nash (4 for 13, including missing his first eight shots of the game) and Forte (3 of 11) struggled shooting but each still scored 13 points to lead the Cowboys. Newberry contributed 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks, while Anthony Hickey added 12 points, 3 steals and 2 rebounds. Michael Cobbins added 9 points and 8 rebounds.
The Cowboys are now 17-9 overall and 7-7 in the Big 12 after losing their last two games. Iowa State improves to 19-6 and 9-4 in conference play.
OSU is back on the court Saturday afternoon when No. 23 West Virginia visits Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Mountaineers (20-6 overall and 8-5 in the Big 12) are coming off a 62-61 victory over No. 8 Kansas on Monday night.