ISU, Oklahoma hope to shake hard-luck losses
AMES — Leave it to a first team all-Academic Big 12 honoree to budget his time wisely.
Classwork out of the way late Wednesday, Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim sat down to do some live scouting— and saw Saturday’s opponent, Oklahoma, get stung by a rousing, Myck Kabongo-led Texas comeback and 92-86 overtime loss.
“It was kind of a crazy deal,” said Ejim, who hopes to help the Cyclones (19-9, 9-6) win Saturday’s pivotal 12:45 p.m. game against the Sooners (18-9, 9-6) at Norman. “Texas came back (from 22 points down), last second shot they got, then took it in overtime. We definitely know the feeling.”
Oh, yes they do.
Similar, well-documented and often inexplicable misfortunes have befallen the Cyclones four times on the road, including at Austin.
Monday, heartbreak snatched from the jaws of victory struck ISU at Hilton Coliseum for the first time when sixth-ranked Kansas’ Elijah Johnson erupted for 39 points, benefitted from a no-call, then call in his favor with 4.9 seconds left in regulation, and sealed a 108-96 overtime win.
“We got a day off to kind-of let it all soak in and let it hurt for a little while, but now we’re back focused,” Cyclone guard Chris Babb said.
Tuesday, the Big 12 issued a statement acknowledging officiating errors occurred in the Kansas game.
“No, not at all,” ISU guard/forward Will Clyburn said. “We still got the loss. We still should have had that game. Even with the calls, we still should have won that game, so I don’t think it makes it any better.”
It did help clear the rancorous air, which showed itself in several fans throwing objects on the floor, one attempting to confront Jayhawks coach Bill Self, and at least two polluting the Twitter-sphere with insensitive remarks pointed at Johnson.
Self chalked that up to “a couple of idiots,” according to the Associated Press, and added he enjoys coaching in Ames and appreciates the passion of the Hilton crowd.
Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg expressed disappointment in the negative reactions.
“I think we’ve got as good a fan base, as respectful a fan base an any in the entire country,” said Hoiberg, who’s team seeks its first four-game win streak over Oklahoma since the mid-1960s. “I’m sure the people who were responsible for that learned from it and I’m guessing it won’t happen again.”
Also in the unlikely-to-happen-again category: The Sooners’ punch-less performance in the previous meeting, which ISU won easily, 83-64.
Hoiberg called it his team’s most complete defensive effort of the season.
The Cyclones led by double digits nearly 27 minutes of that game and limited Oklahoma to 36.6 percent shooting.
“Follow the game plan, do exactly what coach tells us,” Clyburn said. “Playing together, just playing Iowa State basketball and I think we can do the same thing.”
Even though both teams are trying to shake eerily similar recent end-game glumness.“I’m sure they’re going to feel a little bit like us,” said Ejim, the Big 12’s leading rebounder. “They’re going to be ready for a win. ... It’s going to be similar feelings and I’m sure it’s going to be a great game with teams going at it.