TULSA, Okla. — Iowa State freshman George Conditt was doubled over in the middle of the Iowa State locker room at BOK Center with tears streaming down his face, his eyes red and swollen. The sobbing looked, and sounded, like he had just been punched in the gut.
Senior Zoran Talley was sitting in a chair in the corner. He was rocking back and forth, saying, “It wasn’t supposed to end this way, it wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not like this.” After he composed himself a bit, he sat up in his chair and declared his love for each of his teammates, calling them out one-by-one, letting them know what they meant to him.
No. 6-seed Iowa State was upset by No. 11-seed Ohio State 62-59 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The scene in the locker room after the game was a somber one.
“It’s heartbreaking,” freshman Talen Horton-Tucker said. “All of us in here, we wanted to win and send these seniors out right.”
Talley, who moved to his locker, which was next to Horton-Tucker’s, interjected.
“They sent us out right, too,” Talley said. “They sent us out right. They made us proud.”
Iowa State lost, but every player mentioned that they had no problems with the effort they gave in the game. The Cyclones (23-12) held the Buckeyes (20-14) to 39-percent shooting from the field and 25-percent shooting from 3-point range.
Iowa State was always in the game, but it was done in by scoring droughts.
“That really slow start hurt us,” senior Nick Weiler-Babb said. “They controlled the pace and they were killing us on the boards. It sucks going out like that, not playing the way you want to.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Iowa State started the game just 1 of 7 from the field, then went on a 15-2 scoring run and ended the first half with a 1-for-13 stretch from the floor. The Cyclones finished the first half shooting just 8 of 27 from the field.
The Cyclones turned it around in the second half and shot 58 percent, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Buckeyes.
“We were trying to out-tough them,” Weiler-Babb said. “But it was a case of, ‘too little, too late.’ (Marial) Shayok brought us back into the game and made big shots, Lindell (Wigginton) made big shots and Cam (Lard) was a big presence down low in the paint. They kept us in the game, we just couldn’t get it.”
Shayok, Wigginton and Lard were the only Cyclones to make more than two field goals. Shayok led the way with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Wigginton provided good minutes off the bench and scored 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Lard went to work down low on the offensive end and finished with 12 points on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting lilne.
“We knew it wasn’t our game,” Wigginton said. “We weren’t hitting our shots or finishing around the basket. We just had to keep fighting through it and do whatever we could to get the win.”
One of the reasons Iowa State felt like it wasn’t its game was because of how well Ohio State dictated the pace. They Buckeyes slowed the game down and ran half-court set after half-court set for big man Kaleb Wesson.
The Cyclones were battered, bruised and beaten in the post against Wesson. He went to work early on the block and used his 6-foot-9, 270-pound frame to bully Iowa State’s post players.
Wesson finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!
You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.
“He’s a very good player,” Iowa State forward Michael Jacobson said. “He has a big body and he makes you work. It’s hard to get him off his spots when he gets it down there. It was tough for us to defend.”
Jacobson said the postgame locker room was so emotional because the team went from one extreme to another. The Cyclones had just been playing their best basketball of the year in winning a Big 12 tournament championship. A week later, their season is over.
“This loss doesn’t diminish how this team came together,” Weiler-Babb said. “A team that wins a championship together has a memory for life. The players have a bond that can’t be broken.
“I think this team grew over the last couple of weeks. I’ll never forget these guys.”
Added Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm: “I’m really proud of our guys. Obviously, I don’t think tonight was our best night and Ohio State had a lot to do with that, but the finality of a season, when you invest so much with each other, it sucks. It just does. There’s no perfect speech. We have three seniors that we’ll lose — Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb and then Zoran Talley. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially when you share so many moments together.
“This team had a lot of great moments this season, and you’ll be able to reflect on that in a couple weeks. We dealt with suspensions, injuries, mid-season injuries, having a tough three-week stretch where everybody wrote us off and then we went to Kansas City and had an unbelievable weekend.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight. We still had opportunities down the stretch. We couldn’t get it done. I hate it for these guys because the finale came a lot quicker than I was thinking. I really thought we had a chance to do something.”
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org