Nothing exemplifies the way that Iowa State wants to play than the biggest shot of Saturday’s game.
Up 73-70 with just under a minute left on the clock, sophomore forward Georges Niang caught a pass 23-feet away from the rim with 22 seconds left on the shot clock, and instead of pulling the ball out and trying to run off a couple more seconds of clock, he fired away.
Niang buried the three, giving him a career-high 27 points, and Melvin Ejim added 22 points and 16 boards as No. 16 Iowa State outlasted No. 23 Oklahoma, 81-75.
The win moved the Cyclones to 4-4 in Big 12 play, while Oklahoma missed a chance to make up a game on first-place Kansas, who fell at Texas on Saturday afternoon.
At this point, the Cyclones aren’t playing for a Big 12 regular season title. Kansas finally lost a game this afternoon, and the Cyclones are still three games off of the pace in the conference standings. Fred Hoiberg’s club is playing for seeding, in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, and the way they can earn a higher seed is by taking care of business at home.
Road wins are not going to be easy to come by in Big 12 play this season, not when there are seven teams at the top of the league that could end up making the NCAA tournament and especially not when you’re a team notorious for your struggles away from home.
Perhaps the best news for Iowa State is that they were able to win this game despite getting an off-night from Deandre Kane, who finished with five points on 2-for-8 shooting. Hoiberg slid Monte Morris into the starting lineup, bringing his sharp-shooters, Naz Long and Matt Thomas, off the bench.
For Oklahoma, it’s tough to be too upset about a loss in Hilton Coliseum.
It is fair to be a bit concerned about Cameron Clark, however. The 6-foot-6 senior has been one of the most improved players in the country this season, but over the last 11 games, Clark has scored in single-digits five times. Part of that is simply the result of reaching league play, where teams know what the senior can do and will be able to better prepare for him.