Call it a bad match-up, but Iowa State has now won 10 straight games over Oklahoma State, three this season. Number 10 came in the first quarterfinal game of the Big 12 Championship Tournament on Thursday in Kansas City as ISU advanced with a 92-83 win. The Cyclones took the lead for good at 11-10 when Deonte Burton nailed a baseline three-pointer. The Cowboys closed the game to three at the half and they were competitive until back-to-back three pointers by Donovan Jackson pushed the advantage to 72-61 with 8:19 left to play. Iowa State (21-10/12-6) held a cushion that was comfortable the rest of the way.
"I thought there were some pivotal moments in this game," Oklahoma State head coach Brad Underwood said after the game. "We got off to a very tough start, transition defense I think 12 of their first 16 points were in transition. That's been a huge focus for us all week coming into this game was transition and yet we didn't handle that very well. Postseason is about preparing when the ball doesn't go in. How are you going to win?"
This season, even with the changed defensive posture the Cowboys have taken since their 0-6 start in the Big 12, the Cyclones have beaten the Cowboys in all three meetings. The first was part of the 0-6 start to conference season for the Pokes, but the other two losses have come within the past eight days. Both have been by about the same style, although the margin today was greater than last week in Ames. Iowa State with point guard Monte Morris, who nearly had a triple double with 21 point, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, are able to get to the basket as well as any team and even though the Cowboys current defensive style is to play off the offensive player and cut off avenues to the rim, the Cyclones shoot the three well enough to give you issues.
Morris only turned the ball over three times. The Cyclones; also with Burton scoring 17 points, Naz Long with 14, and Matt Thomas and Darrell Bowie with 13 points; lost the battle on the boards as Oklahoma State had 42 rebounds to the Cyclones 37. The thing was Iowa State was 50 percent from three-point range and shot 53.6 percent from the field, 64 percent and red hot in the second half.
The math really tells the story as Oklahoma State hit just 8-of-23 from three-point range and 39 percent overall. Jawun Evans had an excellent game with 29 points, four assists, two in each half and just one turnover. Jeffrey Carroll had 21 points, but the only other Cowboy in double figures was Phil Forte, III with 12 points and that is not enough against the offensively explosive Cyclones.
"Yeah, Iowa State makes you score against them. You have to score," Underwood expanded. "You have to take advantage. We have 19 offensive rebounds, and I don't know what our second-chance, I guess we had 25 second-chance points, but you have to score against them because they've pretty much done it all year long. And they do it from three. If you're getting 2s, you've got to be very efficient.
"When you don't score, every breakdown becomes magnified a little bit on the defensive end," continued the Cowboys head coach. "Seemed like every time we got multiple stops or had an opportunity, we weren't able to score, take advantage of it. It was missed layups or missed -- we got a couple of clean looks, and Jeffrey Carroll had a driving layup. You guys have all seen, Jeff doesn't miss that. Jeff misses a layup, and it's an and-one at the other end. I think it was a 2 or 3-point game at that point, so they put a lot of pressure on you to be good offensively and we weren't. When you get multiple stops you consider yourself fortunate, but you better take advantage of them."
The relief for the Cowboys is that they are in the NCAA with their 20-12 record and 9-9 finish in the conference regular season. They will go play somebody that doesn't know them nearly as well as Iowa State, and likely see a team that doesn't have quite as good a point guard as Monte Morris and some of the other standout hardwood quarterbacks that are seen in the Big 12.
"That's what we're going to talk about. We've got a few days here," Underwood said. "I think the silver lining in losing is you get kind of freshen up mentally and physically a little bit. Recharge. We don't know who we will play, but I think there's a certain level of excitement about going to the tournament. It's so special. I want our guys to enjoy that moment, never take that moment for granted, have that experience, have that moment and then you have to play well. But it's knowing that we've been through what is in my opinion the best league in the country, prepares you for a lot. I can promise you we're not going to see better point guards than what we've seen night-in and night-out in this league."
The Cowboys will share the announcement of where they are going and who they will play when the have an open event with fans, coaches, and players on Sunday at 4:30 in the Conoco-Phillips Alumni Center to watch the NCAA Selection Show.