By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Iowa State isn’t on the NCAA Tournament’s "bubble" anymore.
The Cyclones entered Manhattan’s dreaded "Octagon of Doom" on Saturday and took a hose to red hot Kansas State, upsetting the streaking Wildcats by a 65-61 final.
Iowa State improved to 21-8 overall and 11-5 in the Big 12 with the win.
It was a career day for senior Scott Christopherson, who went 5-for-5 from 3-point range and also moved into third place on Iowa State’s all-time 3-pointers made last. The man he surpassed on that list was none other than his head coach, Fred Hoiberg.
Here’s the recap.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Scott Christopherson – Kansas State simply had no answer. Nothing at all could stop Christopherson, who has now made 22 of his last 34 3-point attempts, a statistic that dates back seven games.
Christopherson led all scorers in the game with 29 points, going 10-of-13 from the field.
Christopherson has been making all kinds of history over the last week. In last Saturday’s win over Oklahoma, he scored the 1,000th point of his career. In the Kansas State win, Christopherson scored the 1,000 point of his career in a Cyclone uniform and now has 187 career 3-pointers.
There’s a good chance that Christopherson can jump up to No. 2 on that list the next time out too, as Dedric Willoughby is next up at 190. Jake Sullivan is No. 1 at 270.
Chris Babb’s defense – Once again, Iowa State’s best defender was matched up against the opposition’s top scores. Once again, Chris Babb came out on top.
The first time that Babb defended Rodney McGruder, Kansas State’s leading scorer went 5-for-16 from the field and scored 11 points. On Saturday, McGruder’s stat line was nearly identical at 5-for-13 and 13 points.
Rebounding – Kansas State outrebounded Iowa State 34-31 the first time that these two teams met this season. Boarding up and transition defense were Iowa State’s two big keys to victory in this one and it’s hard not to give the Cyclones A-pluses in both categories. Iowa State humbled the Big 12’s second best rebounding team by a 37-35 margin. Iowa State’s 11 offensive rebounds resulted in 14 second chance points to only six by Kansas State.
Destiny – Iowa State controls its own in more ways than one. Sure, this will be more than enough to ice Iowa State’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 but regardless of what happens next Wednesday at Missouri, Iowa State can now clinch the 3-seed in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament with a win over Baylor on March 3. The Bears defeated Oklahoma on Saturday by a 70-60 final.
Start to second half – After taking a 37-27 lead into halftime, Iowa State struggled mightily at the beginning of the second half. Kansas State came out of the gates on a 17-3 run and the Cyclones didn’t record their first field goal until the clock read 12:44 to play. Iowa State’s ability to stay poised despite the big Kansas State run makes this win even more impressive.
Chris Babb’s offense – When a guy plays defense the way Chris Babb does, it’s hard to come down on him for anything on the other end of the floor. But Babb is a combined 1-for-17 from the floor in his last two games. Babb went 1-for-11 in the win on Saturday.
Hack-a-Royce – You had to know that eventually, this would go down at the end of an important game. Frank Martin and the Wildcats attended to "hack-a-Royce" on Saturday and for a moment, it did work. White struggled going 3-for-7 from the free throw line in the contest but Fred Hoiberg coached around Kansas State’s strategy at the end of the game by tucking White in the corner of Iowa State’s offense.