With the Sooners ahead by 20 points, forward Ryan Spangler blocked a shot with 15 minutes to go. In his celebration, Cousins said something he shouldn’t have to the Iowa State bench and was called for a technical foul.
During the next 10 minutes, Oklahoma saw just how quickly a 20-point lead can turn into a seven-point deficit; how quickly stagnant offense and an emotionless defense can turn into a lost chance at the Big 12 regular season title.
In complete control of their own Big 12 title destiny heading into Monday’s matchup against the No. 17 Cyclones, who had lost two-straight games, and dominating play on both ends, the No. 15 Sooners watched as an errant pass led to a fast-break dunk and a wide-open 3-pointer by Buddy Hield clang off the rim in the final minutes of an embarrassing 77-70 loss – their lead erased and their pride severely damaged.
“We contributed to it for sure,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to offensively. We didn’t guard them very well off the dribble. They got the confidence. They got the momentum and kept it going.”
Cousins celebrated Spangler’s block as the Sooners (20-9, 11-6) walked back to the bench for the media timeout. In the middle of one of his best games of the season, Cousins gave Iowa State another chance.
“That’s two points. I don’t know if it’s anything more than that,” Kruger said. “You hate to see that happen at any point. Isaiah was just applauding the block shot, and he shouldn’t have done it.”
The Cyclones, who still haven’t lost back-to-back home games since 2011, answered immediately with points on their next seven possessions and 10 of their next 12 trips down court. Oklahoma went more than eight minutes between baskets as Iowa State went on a 31-4 run.
Oklahoma, which missed nine free throws, will play Kansas on Saturday in the regular season finale, which is no longer a guaranteed Big 12 Championship regular-season title game. Kansas can clinch its 11th straight Big 12 regular season title outright with a victory against West Virginia on Wednesday. The Jayhawks already have at least a share.
Cousins’ technical foul counted for just three points, but it immediately led to a failure on offense for the Sooners, who relied on a perimeter-oriented attack at devolved into just passing the ball around the 3-point arc.
“We weren’t too comfortable. We knew what they were capable of doing,” Hield said. “At halftime, I told the guys to stay poised. They made their run. It’s tough playing when that crowd is going crazy and stuff like that. They did their job. We had a good first half, and they responded back at us. We just have to do a better job executing and getting good shots when they are making big runs like that.”
Iowa State adjusted on offense, turning to an isolation offense – something Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said the Cyclones were doing too much of in the first half. Oklahoma had no answer for Georges Niang and Monte Morris, who combined for 42 points.
Hield led Oklahoma with 26 points. Cousins had 12 and point guard Jordan Woodard scored 10. Spangler finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“They made some 3s and had everything going that they wanted,” Kruger said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do in the second half, at all. . . . The second half was not at all what we need. Niang off the dribble was tough.”
Down by just four points in the final two minutes, 3-point specialist Frank Booker passed up a shot for a dish to Hield, but the lackadaisical pass was nowhere near its intended target. Two possessions later, Hield missed a 3 that would have pulled Oklahoma within three points.
After just 18 points in the first half, Iowa State scored 59 points in the final 20 minutes.