On Jan. 2, Iowa State pushed Oklahoma to the brink in Norman, leading for most of the game before ultimately losing, 87-83.
“Right after that game, you heard a lot of people say that was one of the best games they had seen up to that point,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We really led for about 35, almost 36 minutes up there. They were able to make bigger plays down the stretch than we were.”
Monday, however, was a different story. Iowa State junior Monte Morris hit a jumper, grabbed a rebound and hit two free throws in the final 21 seconds to help No. 19 Iowa State knock off top-ranked Oklahoma, 82-77.
“That was pretty much the action we wanted to get,” Prohm said of Morris’ jumper. “The shot clock was down around 15, right in that area, and we wanted to get it right into Monte and let Monte play off that screen. I’ve been blessed to coach some really good point guards, and I just feel comfortable in those situations putting it in their hands and letting them make a play. Obviously (Georges) Niang made a big three to go up one after (Dante) Buford hit the 40-footer. Really, my thought process is you go to Niang, you go to Morris, and both guys are obviously tremendous, tremendous players for us.”
Niang and Morris finished with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Abdel Nader added 20, while Jameel McKay had game-highs in rebounds (13) and blocks (four).
Iowa State won despite a) not getting a singe bench point and b) allowing 17 three-pointers. Oklahoma shot 17-of-32 (53.1 percent) from outside the arc but just 11-of-34 (32.4 percent) from inside it. Buddy Hield, a player of the year candidate, drilled seven threes to finish with a game-high 27 points.
Gottlieb called Hield an “unreal shotmaker.” Prohm didn’t disagree.
“Man, he’s unbelievable,” Prohm said. “I tell you what: In one minute, it went from 67-58 to tied just because Buddy is so explosive from three. Every time he shoots it, you think it’s going in. He’s a tremendous competitor, tremendous player. Obviously another great performance. I thought Matt Thomas did a terrific job and our team did a terrific job on him, but he is a super competitor. From the little bit I’ve watched him from afar, he just seems like he’s about all the right things.”
Iowa State (14-4) plays at TCU (9-9) this Saturday before hosting No. 3 Kansas (15-2) on Monday, the first of three straight top-10 opponents for the Cyclones. That makes the Horned Frogs the proverbial “trap game.”
How will Prohm keep his players motivated in a half-empty arena this weekend knowing full well they’ll be facing Kansas on prime time just over 48 hours later?
“We’ve got to go to work,” Prohm said. “That doesn’t mean two-and-a-half hours a day. That just means for that time that we’re over at the arena or our practice facility that we’re engaged and we’re reworking to get better. Each game counts as one. One win, one loss. So our focus, attention to detail – it has to be the best it’s been come Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, as we head to Fort Worth. Because obviously it’s a big game for them as well. You can’t overlook anybody in this league. This has to be our best game to date.”