It was a tale of two halves and, unfortunately for No. 4-seed Oklahoma, Iowa State saved their best for the more critical point in the game and came from behind to knock off the Sooners 73-67 in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship on Thursday.
OU senior forward shot Romero Osby scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the opening half on six-for-10 field-goal shooting as the Sooners raced out to an early 12 point lead and finished the first half with an eight-point advantage, 37-29. Iowa State, which has made its living all season long from behind the three-point line, shooting 37 percent as a team on three-point attempts, best in the Big 12, managed only one for 12 from behind the arc in the first 30 minutes against the Sooners.
The Sooners, who split their two-game series with the fifth-seeded Cyclones this season with both teams winning by double digits on their home floor, shot 45 percent from the floor in the first half while holding Iowa State, the second best shooting team in the conference to just 35 percent, 10 below their season average. Oklahoma sustained their lead and actually increased it to a 14-point margin, at 60-48 with around seven and a half minutes remaining in the second half.
Followers of the Sooners will not soon forget the 22-point lead OU lost to Texas late in the regular season with about the same amount of time on the clock. The last seven minutes of Thursday’s Big 12 quarterfinal matchup with five-seed Iowa State was like a horrible recurring nightmare, as OU scored only one field goal the rest of the game. Free-throw shooting, which is what made the difference when the two teams played at Oklahoma, with trhe Sooners tying a college record at all levels with 34 makes in 34 attempts, was the only thing that kept the Sooners in the game and tied at 62 with a little over three minutes to go.
Freshman guard Will Clyburn, who Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg moved to the point in the second half replacing regular five-guard Korie Lucious in one of the defining coaching decisions in the game, finished a three-point play with a free throw at the 3:19 mark to give Iowa State its first lead in the game. Senior sharpshooter Tyrus McGee then drained a dagger-like three-point shot, his first of the game, and the Cyclones stretched their lead to three. The Sooners, led by Osby’s 18 and reserve Cameron Clark’s season-high 17 points, manages only three free thows from there.
In addition to moving Clyburn to point guard, Hoiberg also had his team take away the paint area from OU’s Osby, limiting the Sooners’ leading scorer on the season to just six second-half points. Another deciding factor in Iowa State’s come-from-behind win over Oklahoma was the major edge the Cyclones commanded on both the offensive and defensive boards. The rebounds were virtually even in the first half, but Iowa State doubled up the Sooners on the boards in the second stanza, pulling down 13 more rebounds, mostly off of Oklahoma shot misses.
Senior Melvin Ejim of Iowa State had 12 rebounds in the game to lead the Cyclones and a team-high 23 points in the game, including a critical two-point shot with time running down on the shot clock and Iowa State holding onto a slim two-point lead with 1:18 to go in the game.
The win was Iowa State’s first in the Big 12 Tournament since a first-round defeat of Baylor in 2005.
Iowa State now moves on to the Big 12 semifinal round on Friday evening at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., against either top-seed Kansas or Texas Tech. Oklahoma goes home, hoping that its overall body of work this season is enough to get the Sooners in the NCAA Tournament for their first appearance since 2009, Blake Griffin’s final season at OU.