Iowa State hadn't won a basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., since 1988. For those counting at home, that streak had climbed to 18 straight games heading into Monday night's matchup between the Cyclones and the Cowboys.
For coach Fred Hoiberg and No. 16 Iowa State, it took a few helpings of extra basketball to halt that losing streak in its tracks.
The Cyclones held their own and pushed past No. 19 Oklahoma State 98-97 in triple overtime, the Cowboys' third loss in a row. The victory marked Iowa State's third win in its last four contests, all against ranked opponents. But the marathon in Stillwater might have been the most impressive victory of the bunch.
The Cyclones, who had built a nine-point lead early in the second half, watched as Oklahoma State chiseled the advantage down as the clock inched toward zero. After the Cowboys' Markel Brown connected on two free throws to give Oklahoma State a 74-75 lead, Iowa State's Melvin Ejim hit the back-end of his own two free throws to knot the game, 75-75, with 44 seconds left. Both teams missed potential game-winning jumpers before the end of regulation, including a put-back slam by Ejim that looked like a decisive bucket before it was waved off by official replay.
At the end of the first overtime, DeAndre Kane had a shot at another game-winner for Iowa State, but Brown swatted the attempt to seal the need for a second overtime. The Cyclones exacted revenge, however, with a Naz Long three-pointer at the end of the next period. Long's shot splashed through the net with two ticks left on the clock, meaning it would take at least one final period to determine this Big 12 matchup.
Iowa State struggled to a 98-95 lead on two Long free throws with 20 seconds remaining, and Oklahoma State went for the quick two on the ensuing possession instead of forcing the game-tying trey. Brown threw down a dunk to cut the deficit to one point with 12 seconds left. Then, Long turned the ball over for Iowa State on the inbounds pass, giving the Cowboys one last chance to defend their home court.
But Marcus Smart took the ball in the low post and missed a turnaround jumper with two seconds left on the clock. The Cyclones rebounded and escaped with their first win in Stillwater in a quarter-century.
Smart's last-second miss notwithstanding, the Cowboys' star rebounded from a sorry first half to keep Oklahoma State in the game. He failed to make a field goal and hit only a free throw before intermission on Monday night, and it seemed likely Smart's recent shooting struggles in Big 12 play would continue. After all, the sophomore entered the night having shot 10-of-39 (25.6 percent) from the field in his last three contests. But Smart finished with 20 points and seven boards and drew a key charge on Kane in the second overtime that set Oklahoma State up for a key possession late in the game.
Unfortunately for Smart, though, it was Kane's squad who would come out on top, thanks largely to its star. Kane contributed 26 points, 10 boards and nine assists in the win, a victory that might help get this Iowa State program back on track after its red-hot start ended last month. The Cyclones famously began the season 14-0 and rose to No. 9 in the polls before losing three straight games in mid-January. Now Hoiberg's squad is a winner of three of its last four games, with all those wins coming against ranked Big 12 foes. Iowa State even hung tough in its 92-81 loss at Kansas last week. The Cylones had raised many questions since their blistering start came to an end last month. But now at least this team seems to be heading in the right direction, and Wednesday's win over Oklahoma State proved that Iowa State can hang in tough moments of gritty conference contests. It also exposed a troubled Oklahoma State program that's now lost three straight games in the heart of Big 12 play. In all, it took three overtimes to show two programs seemingly headed in opposite directions.