The Cyclones can sleep easy, as it seems that Ben McLemore’s banked-in three and George Niang’s “blocking foul” won’t end up costing Fred Hoiberg’s team a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Iowa State knocked off Oklahoma in their Big 12 tournament opener out in Kansas City, notching a 73-66 win in the first game of the day to advance to take on Kansas (as long as they beat Texas Tech) on Friday. Melvin Ejim led the was with 23 points and 12 boards, while Will Clyburn chipped in with 13 of his 17 points in a six minute second half stretch.
The Cyclones have an RPI of 47 as of Thursday afternoon, and after beating Oklahoma, they now have four wins over teams in the RPI top 50 — Oklahoma twice, Oklahoma State and Kansas State — and an 8-8 record against the top 100. Given how weak the bubble is right now, that should be enough to outweigh their weak non-conference resume and a pair of bad losses to Texas and Texas Tech.
It didn’t look that way early on, as the Sooners jumped out to a double-digit lead on a cold-shooting Cyclone team. They led by as much as 12 in the first half, and after an and-one from Cameron Clark with just under 10 minutes left in the game put OU up 13 points, it looked like ISU was on their way to a long and stressful weekend.
But Clyburn his a three to spark a 17-4 run — in which he scored the last seven points — to tie the game at 60 with four minutes left, before he scored an and-one bucket a minute later to give the Cyclones their first lead of the game.
The best news? Iowa State won despite an awful night shooting. For a team that relies as heavily as ISU does on the three-ball, beating an NCAA tournament team on a night where they shot 7-26 from beyond the arc should build some confidence.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.