Iowa State basketball: Never doubt Hilton Magic

Hilton Magic has been associated with Iowa State basketball since 1989 when a sports writer from The Des Moines Register coined the term after the Cyclones defeated the third-ranked team in the nation. More than 25 years later, it’s the only explanation to the complete turnaround that took place on Monday night against the Oklahoma Sooners.

It was the worst point total in the first half for Iowa State all season. 18 points total, just five points from the starters*, and 38.2 percent shooting from the field.

*To be fair, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Dustin Hogue, and Daniel Edozie got starts for senior night, and Jameel McKay had 10 points off the bench in the first 20 minutes.

Still, the Cyclones saw a 21-point deficit early in the second half. The team and the crowd was absolutely dead. Everyone was trying to figure out what went wrong in the last three games. Just two weeks ago, the team put together back-to-back wins on the road before letting Baylor make every single 3-pointer and collapsing again at Kansas State down the stretch.

It was frustrating, but fit with the season. There always seemed to be something off with this team. They just didn’t have the chemistry to put a full 40-minute game together. The anger came out from those attending the game. It was happening in bars and restaurants and it was pouring in over social media, and deservedly so.

That’s when the unthinkable happened. Just when Hilton Magic looked to be too far in the distance for this team, it slapped Oklahoma and everybody watching the game right in the face. All of a sudden, the Cyclones kept charging down the court and making shots.

Coming out of the first media timeout in the second half, there was a technical foul on Isaiah Cousins. Georges Niang connected on a layup and three free throws and Monte Morris hit a 3-pointer all in a span of 39 seconds. That 8-0 run continue to grow.

Morris made another 3-pointer. 11-0. Morris scored again on a layup. 13-0. Niang hit a jumper. 15-0. A Hogue dunk on an assist by Morris. 17-0. Morris made another layup. 19-0.

Mar 2, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Georges Niang (31) celebrates with forward Dustin Hogue (22) during a second half rally against the Oklahoma Sooners at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State beat Oklahoma 77-70. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Then, to cap it off, Hogue made a 3-pointer — on senior night — to give Iowa State their first lead at 50-48 after capping off a 22-0 run. Hilton Coliseum exploded. I thought I was just hearing the screaming and yelling from the TV. However, it was just as loud as I stepped out onto my balcony and put my ear toward the direction of where Hilton Magic was coming from.**

**There might be some exaggeration in the previous paragraph.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen smiles from this team. Niang and Morris cheering with the crowd and getting pumped up with their teammates will be the first image that comes to mind when looking back at the 22-0 stampede. We haven’t seen that much dominance in one cluster since the Cyclones ran the Iowa Hawkeyes out of their own arena in December.

The commentators were amazed. Brent Musburger believed this game was dead and buried like all of us thought. Fran Fraschilla could only come up with “street ball” as to what the Cyclones were doing in their 22-point jaunt. They got incredibly hot by doing what they do best — exploding down the court on fast breaks and not even running an offense.

Perhaps it’s the beginning of better stories to come. While the theme was senior night, the underclassmen — the players that have plenty more nights of action in Hilton Coliseum — were the guys that kept the loss total at home to one game and two games in the last two years.

Iowa State preserved that it takes an opponent to make seven straight 3-pointers to defeat them at home.***

***Baylor’s freakshow in the second half doesn’t happen often.

For now, the Cyclones closed the book on another season in memorable fashion. From 18 points in the first half to 59 points in the second (both of those the worst and best records this season in one half), they eventually cruised to a huge 77-70 victory over the Sooners. When the players and fans need Hilton Magic the most, it never lets us down. Let’s hope those players can remember the feeling as they dive into March Madness.