Iowa State’s pivotal rematch with Kansas
by Bryce Miller, USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The chisel already seemed hard at work, hammering away at the epitaph for Iowa State’s basketball tombstone.
Here lies the Cyclones …
Born: 2012 … 20 feet, 6 inches away from the basket.
Died: March 14, 2013 … of rusty elbows and psyches irreparably wounded from unforgiving rims.
Place of rest: Sprint Center, Big 12 Tournament.
Oklahoma found out Thursday that the robust, keep-shooting mentality is the excruciating rub with this Fred Hoiberg-coached team in a 73-66, back-from-the-dead finish that deep-sixed the Cyclones’ seven-game conference tournament skid.
Surely, Kansas — No. 6 Kansas, beat-Iowa State-twice-in-overtime Kansas — watched three-quarters of the Cyclones’ long-range stat sheet abuse against the Sooners and exhaled.
At halftime, Iowa State hit just 1 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc, for a cringe-worthy 8.3 percent. The Jayhawks, the other dance partner in a 6:30 p.m. semifinal Friday, know as well as anyone that the Cyclones can streak white-hot just as quickly. In two meetings this season, Iowa State and Kansas have produced a combined 390 points.
Is there any team in the country that tests your perimeter defense for 40 minutes as consistently or more — starters one through five — than Iowa State?
Live by the 3, die by the 3? Iowa State, many times, seems bent on flirting with both.
“Forget about making or missing,” said Will Clyburn, who scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime, including both of his 3-point shots. “If you miss a shot, gotta shoot the next one. That’s what we have on this team, shooters with confidence.”
How did Iowa State lock down an NCAA Tournament berth — and it’s hard to believe there’s any doubt now — in a game it trailed until almost 37 minutes had melted off the clock?
Simply, and according to the space-it-out-and-shoot plan, the shots started falling.
“Eventually, the percentages will work themselves out,” Hoiberg said.
As the time remaining ducked under 10 minutes to go, Melvin Ejim had scored 17 of his game-high 23 points. The other four Iowa State starters: 16.
Then, in the final 7:20 … Georges Niang … [For more on Iowa State shoots into pivotal rematch with Kansas, click here.]