Big Monday rolled into Ames, Iowa last night for a very hyped up match-up between Kansas and Iowa State. The game was better than advertised. In this day in age college basketball teams are having a hard time scoring points. Well, this one was knotted at 90 going into overtime. The game had an incredible amount of lead changes, momentum swings, plot twists and of course three point baskets. When all was said and done it was one of the most exciting college basketball games of the season. Media personnel from all over the country were weighing in on Twitter seemingly celebrating the level of play that was occurring inside of Hilton Coliseum Monday night. Most importantly, for the second time this year Iowa State had Kansas beat with seconds left only to spark controversy over national media due to a late game decision.
In January it was Iowa State making the choice not to foul up three with 7 seconds left that opened the door for a Ben McLemore banked in three with a second left. Even Dick Vitale weighed in saying teams must foul up three points (which I'm not convinced). That loss was tough to take for the team, but at the end of the day Kansas made a basket to send it into overtime. This time? Free throws. Free throws that were unwarranted. It took an incredible amount of class on the part of Fred Hoiberg and the rest of the team to not let a horrendous decision turn into an ugly situation.
I hate placing blame on officials. I absolutely hate it. The truth is that they will always play a part in the game and it adds a dimension to the strategy. I also hate seeing two teams play at such a high level for 39 minutes end a game in such a way. Iowa State was just a single play away from winning this game in regulation. Yes, they were one loose ball, one critical player on KU fouling out, one charge drawn away from winning this game in regulation. People will say let the players decide the outcome of the game. The truth is they weren't allowed to. In what was the fourth crushing defeat like this for Iowa State this year, this one was the cherry on top. This one absolutely stings for the fan, but its not about us. The players saw their hard work and execution go unrewarded which happens in sports. It doesn't typically happen like this though.
Blatant Missed Call #1
Blatant Missed Calls #2/#3
There was surely contact on Elijah Johnson's drive. It was either a charge or a charge, but could have been incorrectly viewed as a block. Instead there was no call. Let the players play right? That's all well and dandy until Georges Niang gets picked up for a foul going for a loose ball when Johnson was out of bounds. Let them play and Tharpe misses a two point basket and ISU walks away the victors.
Iowa State was spent. All of that energy to win the game and have it ripped away just like that. Give credit where credit is due Elijah Johnson was unconscious. It took two career performances out of McLemore (1st meeting) and Johnson (2nd meeting) to knock off the Cyclones this year. People will say the better team won but how can you be so sure? There is no moral victory that comes out of this loss for the team, just a kick in the nuts. This one stings. Iowa State will be forced to rebound after an inexplicable loss for the fourth time this season. Is that too much to regroup from and make the NCAA tournament. Everyone seems to think Iowa State will move on the tournament after winning at least one or two more games but if they falter could this have been the turning point? I guess we will have to wait and see.
With any controversial ending some things get lost in the shuffle. First, Iowa State matches up really, really well against Kansas. They dropped 89 and 96 against the nations best defense. Second, Tyrus McGee could have been an instant legend among Cyclone fans. The kid was shooting out of his mind. Finally, Korie Lucious had one of his best games as a Cyclone.
This group seems to be gelling at the right time. Whether that means anything or not I don't know. At this point Iowa State is just hoping to make it into the tournament. At that point anything is possible. When you knock down 17 three pointers you aren't going to lose too many games. Let's hope the team isn't too broken from this and makes some noise the rest of the season and down in Kansas City. Mark down March 16th on your calendar. Iowa State and Kansas could duel in the Big 12 semi-finals for their third meeting this season. You know what they say about beating a team three times in a season right?