"I can tell you that was a hard-fought game for a season-opener," said Texas coach Rick Barnes, half-jokingly.
And while it was the first game back for both Myck Kabongo, from NCAA suspension, and Jonathan Holmes, from a broken bone in his hand, the Longhorns were without both when it came down to "winning time" in overtime.
In fact, both were fouled out with 1:42 left in the first overtime, when Kabongo was nailed with a charge call. And after a potential winner from Javan Felix rolled out with two seconds left, Texas was forced to go the entire second overtime by relying on the same team that had lost three previous overtime games this season. But this time, an energized Sheldon McClellan led Texas through, scoring all 10 of Texas's points in the second extra stanza.
After Melvin Ejim hit a pair of free throws to give Iowa State an 86-85 lead in the final minute, Julien Lewis missed a three-point shot. But the unusually aggressive McClellan — he had eight rebounds in the game — grabbed an offensive board and was fouled. He made both, putting Texas up 87-86. Then, the player oft-maligned for his defensive intensity stole the ball from Will Clyburn and was fouled. McClellan again made both, putting Texas up 89-86 with 31 seconds left.
The Cyclones missed two shots at a game-tying three and Connor Lammert dove on a loose ball as time ran out.
That Texas got to overtime in itself was a testament to the Longhorns' effort level. Texas led 57-53 with 6:58 remaining in the game before Tyrus McGee hit a jumper, then a three-pointer after a turnover by Felix. That put the visitors up with 5:48 left, and Texas never led again in regulation, trailing by as many as six. The lead was three following a pair of Korie Lucious free throws with five seconds left, and the Longhorns chose to throw the ball to halfcourt before calling timeout to set up an inbounds.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoibert said later that the plan was to foul, sending Texas to the line for two shots down three. Texas ran a cross of its wings with Julien Lewis breaking free for what would have been an open, albeit moving, three-point attempt. But Ioannis Papapetrou, the inbound, held onto the ball — "I about killed him," Barnes joked later — instead inbounding it to Holmes inside the arc. Holmes pitched it right back to Papapetrou, who stepped into an open three-point look.
"To tell you the truth, I felt it," Papapetrou said after the game.
The shot ripped through the net with 1.7 seconds left, forcing overtime, with the Longhorns winning their first overtime game of the year.
"I told our guys after the game that tonight there were a lot of guys that showed individual toughness," Barnes said.
Despite the increased energy level that came with Kabongo playing his first game of the season, Texas came out of the gate somewhat slowly, falling behind 17-9 before turning on the jets. The Longhorns went on a 16-0 tear to take a 25-17 advantage, with the Cyclones looking shell-shocked.
But the Cyclones are uniquely built to withstand runs because of their outside shooting, and they weren't felled by that Longhorn burst. Instead, Iowa State went back to what it does well, knocking down shot from behind the arc. The Clones shot just 31.3 percent from the field for the half, but made 45.5 percent of their shots from distance, pairing that with an outstanding 12-for-14 performance from the free throw line in scrapping back to take a 37-33 lead at the half.
Texas had five players in double-figures, led by McClellan with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Papapetrou had 14 points and eight boards. Kabongo fought foul trouble for much of the game, but still logged 35 minutes, throwing up a 13-point, seven-assist, four rebound performance. Kabongo did have four turnovers — Texas committed 18 as a team — but two came on questionable charge calls.
"They're a lot faster," said Hoiberg of Texas with Kabongo. "He's a big-time player."
Lammert had a career-high 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 40 minutes. Felix had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Ejim had 20 points and 16 rebounds for Iowa State, with Tyrus McGee (21 points, three steals) and Clyburn (20 points, seven boards) joining him with more than 20 points. Chris Babb had 12, while Lucious dished out 11 assists.
Texas outshot Iowa State 50.8 percent to 35.0 percent, though the Cyclones owned a 12-point advantage (22-10) in second-chance points and a 14-point lead (24-10) in points off turnovers.
Iowa State fell to 16-8 and 6-5 in Big 12 play. Texas (11-13, 3-8) will next travel to take on Big 12 co-leader Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.