One of the best games in the college basketball season took place in Stillwater back in early February. Iowa State (22-7, 10-7) defeated host Oklahoma State (20-10, 8-9) in a triple-overtime affair, 98-97, and the Cowboys are looking for revenge while improving their stock in the NCAA tournament. They hope to overpower a Cyclone squad that’s lost their last couple of games on the road in last-minute breakdowns.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at (16)Iowa State Cyclones
James H. Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Date: Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM CT | TV: ESPN
Ironically, Iowa State was also ranked 16th in the Associated Press top 25 in the previous meeting. Oklahoma State was also in there at 19th, but the loss to the Cyclones was their third-straight loss in what became a seven-game losing streak. Thanks to preseason hype and a couple of big wins in non-conference play, they were able to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive with a late four-game winning streak since Marcus Smart came back from a three-game suspension after pushing a fan at Texas Tech.
Smart’s attention-grabbing behavior finally was pushed to the limit, and after being suspended, he’s playing like an athlete that may have learned and grown up from the situation. He’s finally playing like the name on the back of his jersey.
That couldn’t be worse news for Iowa State, who comes in reeling from two straight losses on the road. The heartbreak bug from last season has reared its ugly head, with both games potentially being close finishes turned into routs with poor shooting and turnovers.
Interestingly enough, the Cyclones had plenty of turnovers and missed shots that could have resulted in a loss at Stillwater on February 3rd. But Iowa State was able to close out games then, and they’ll have to find a way to reach back and regain some of that knowledge.
[Also see: Five players to watch during OSU-ISU]
It’s a close race head-to-head with Oklahoma State owning a 63-55 advantage over Iowa State heading into the 119th meeting on Saturday. In the triple-overtime game, DeAndre Kane nearly had a triple-double with 26 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists.
Georges Niang has fared well against the Cowboys, averaging 17 points and shooting above 60 percent from the field in the three games against them in his career.
What to watch for
It’s no secret anymore – Iowa State’s starting frontcourt will face the challenge of needing to produce while avoiding foul trouble and staying out on the court. Niang, Melvin Ejim, and Dustin Hogue all need to work collectively together, and if one of them starts with a couple of cheap fouls, it’s going to be that much tougher for the other two to make up for that player’s absence.
Here’s what benefits the Cyclones: Oklahoma State struggles at rebounds on both sides of the court with a lack of post presence. The Iowa State bigs should have an advantage on the boards but they’ll have to watch out for the athleticism of Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash, and Smart, who all average 5.4 or more rebounds per game.
The Cowboys are average in assists and don’t set up their players in good position to score often, but that also results in them not turning the ball over much. They lead the Big 12 in turnover margin (+3.6) and creating turnovers with steals (7.5 per game).
[Also see: Bubu Palo considers hardship waiver if granted more eligibility" href="http://clonesconfidential.com/2014/03/06/iowa-state-cyclones-basketball-bubu-palo-considers-hardship-waiver-granted-eligibility/">Will Bubu Palo play on Senior Night?]
Iowa State has gone into a funk recently, not being able to close things out at Kansas State while arguably having their worst performance of the season at Baylor last Tuesday. Perhaps the Cyclones are focusing on tournament play, especially since it doesn’t matter what seed they will be because any matchup they can obtain will be a tough one.
That being said, it would be a huge confidence booster to head into the Big 12 tournament with one win than three straight losses. Luckily, the combination of Hilton Magic and Iowa State winning the matchups inside. It won’t be easy with players like Smart and Nash likely to have big days, but it’s hard to imagine that the Cyclones would give this game up on Senior Night. Especially with this being Ejim’s final game at Hilton Coliseum.
IAST 82, OKST 77 (Odds: IAST -3)