By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
*** CycloneFanatic.com’s coverage of the 2012 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Kansas City is brought to you by WCI Pools & Spas located in Urbandale and Ames. Bring your Big 12 Tournament ticket stub into WCI Pools & Spas by March 31st and receive and extra $500 off of a Jacuzzi Hot Tub. ***
KANSAS CITY — This Big 12 Tournament loss was different…
This time around, there’s still more meaningful basketball left to be played.
For an Iowa State team that had legitimate tournament championship aspirations, it’s still agonizing, no doubt. Thousands of Iowa State fans invaded Kansas City on Thursday evening, only to watch their Cyclones fall to Texas by a 71-65 final.
But unlike the last several years when Iowa State’s players and coaches discussed next year with the local media in the Sprint Center’s postgame locker room media session, a pending NCAA Tournament berth and bouncing back were the hot topics this time around.
“This is big for us because we felt like we had a shot at the conference title in the regular season. We dropped that," said Royce White. "The NCAA Tournament is definitely a much bigger stage and goal and aspiration so I mean, I don’t think it should take anything for anybody to get re-pumped up for the tournament. I don’t see how we don’t make it, honestly.”
White led Iowa State in points and rebounds with 17 and 10 in the defeat. Despite turning the basketball over four times, White wasn’t the problem. Still, the big man did shoulder much of the responsibly for Iowa State’s early exit.
“Right now, it’s just killing me," said White. "There’s so much that I could have done different. Even in preparation leading up to the game, what I ate, it’s just that kind of thing. I think that’s the biggest thing that we learn."
The good news is that this Iowa State team has responded well to adversity all season long. The Cyclones are 7-2 coming off of defeats this year. One of those was an early season road trip Ann Arbor, Mich. on Dec. 3. The other was in Lawrence, Kan. on Jan. 14.
“After every time we lose, a piece of you goes with that loss. Then we just grow again as a family You grow that piece back and you make it stronger," said White. "We’ve been resilient that way this season and it’s perfect if you’re looking at where we have to go next. Maybe we needed this loss? It works in mysterious ways.”
Will this trend continue? Stay tuned.
WHAT WENT WRONG? The word "tight" was tossed around quite a bit in the locker room after the game.
“We did come out a little tight and I think that guys were trying to field the game out a little bit," said Scott Christohperson.
Even so, Iowa State did lead the Longhorns by 11 points with 18 minutes to play. The Cyclones were in the flow of the game and for a few minutes, it looked like Iowa State would cruise to a comfortable victory. That’s when J’Covan Brown put his team on his back and Texas went on its 22-4 run over the span of nine minutes.
"We kind of came apart for a stretch there," said Christopherson. "At this time of year, you can’t do that.”
White said that the Longhorns played with more urgency.
“They played harder than us and that’s just the reality of it," said White. "No matter how much we wanted to say that we were still hungry coming into this game, knowing that you are in the tournament already probably did something to the way that we played. We didn’t come out and punch them in the mouth right away. That’s not like us, especially in a big game."
"When we played Kansas, we came out and punched Kansas right in the mouth. When we played Baylor, we punched Baylor. We didn’t punch Texas. The urgency must not have been there.”
— After Tuesday’s shootaround, senior Chris Allen said that win or lose, Iowa State would take something from its first March tournament game (as a whole) in preparation for the NCAA’s next week.
White somewhat reiterated that statement by saying that the defeat did teach the Cyclones a lesson.
"I think that everybody understands the importance of every single possession, every single assignment, when it is one and done like this," said White. "That’s the way that it will be next Thursday.”
Iowa State will learn of its NCAA Tournament draw on Sunday evening.
MORE QUOTES: Royce White clearly thought that his team let this one slip away…
— “When we came in the locker room we were frustrated because you only get one shot you know? That’s the thing that sucks about it. If we played them seven times, we’d win four out of seven you know? It sucks that we lost so the frustration is definitely there but we’ve got to get past that otherwise we’re not going to accomplish the other goals that we set out in front of us.”
— “For me personally, it sucks that we lost in the first round. Just because personally, I think we are a better team than them. To lose two times to a team that you are better than is unreal. It’s very disappointing but it happens."