It was a thrilling and uncharacteristic victory for Iowa State in Kansas City, coming back from a double-digit deficit to win their first Big 12 tournament game in eight years. What made this stretch so different than all the heartbreaking losses that took place all season? One of the team’s leaders sat for the duration of the comeback.
With 7:42 remaining and Cameron Clark draining two free throws for Oklahoma, the 60-48 advantage for the Sooners seemed insurmountable for the Cyclones. The only previous deficit they’ve been able to come back from was down eight points to Yale back on January 1st.
But Iowa State began to outrebound and finally hit their 3-point shots, nailing 5-8 down the stretch after starting 2-18 from the perimeter. They shut down Romero Osby, who scored 15 points in the first 21 minutes of the game and was held to just three points the rest of the way, and zero points after the 10:08 mark.
What was different for the Cyclones this time around? Korie Lucious was on the bench during the comeback, going 0-8 from the field but still producing offense with nine assists. Bubu Palo was instead in the lineup, and Will Clyburn ended up mostly running the point.
At first glance, not being able to score may have irked Fred Hoiberg to sit Lucious the rest of the game (or to be exact, until the final 20 seconds of the game). That wasn’t the case.
“Korie came to me out of a timeout and said, ‘You keep going with these guys, they’ve got a great flow going,’” said Hoiberg, praising the senior guard’s honesty when shots weren’t falling.
It may not always show on the court, but something critics and fans don’t see is what happens on the sidelines. Some people noticed Lucious sitting on Twitter, wondering why in the world he would be out for such a big moment. Some even questioned if the team was better without him.
That’s the problem with instant reaction. Nobody knows the whole story except the people involved on the sidelines. Lucious saw the chemistry and told his coach that’s who he should stick with instead of putting him back in.
“That’s Korie Lucious,” Hoiberg said, “who hit a shot to help put a Michigan State team in a Final Four. When you have a guy as selfless as that on your team, that’s a great luxury to have.”
Indeed it is. That unselfishness perhaps gave the Iowa State Cyclones another chance at redemption against the Kansas Jayhawks on Friday night.