Williams: Stinger in Lawrence shows potential in these Cyclones

For 39 minutes and about 50 seconds, Iowa State out-played No. 6 Kansas in Lawrence on Wednesday night. But a Ben McLemore bank shot (or prayer, whichever you prefer) with one second on the clock sent this tussle into overtime and as a result, the Cyclones lost by a 97-89 final.

Up three with eight seconds on the clock, to foul or not to foul was the question…

Coaches have been asking themselves the answer to that bad boy for decades. Fred Hoiberg elected to let the game run its course in fear of a Kansas offensive rebound. It turned out to be the wrong decision.

*** CLICK HERE for more reaction from our Brent Blum. ***

After the game, Kansas coach Bill Self more a less agreed with “The Mayor.” And even though I’m a foul in that situation type of guy, I’m fine with how it played out, obviously wishing that it would have gone the other way.

Where’s the South Park character “Captain Hindsight” when you need him?

I’m not going to go off on some tangent about Hoiberg’s late game decision here. Hoiberg has forgotten more about the game of basketball that I’ll ever know. If McLemore would have missed that shot, nobody would be talking about Hoiberg’s decision. 

What burns is that could have been a program-changing win and yes, the pain of losing a game like that takes days to recover from. Iowa State was one second, one free throw, one bunny in the paint away from handing Kansas its first home loss in 30 games. 

For a fan, this one stings. For the coaches, this one aches, For the players, this one is a deflating heart breaker. But now the question is, how will these Cyclones respond? Based off of what we saw on Wednesday, I’m very, very encouraged. 

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this team against the salty Jayhawks. In fact, in my weekly radio appearance with 1460 KXNO’s Miller and Brinson program Tuesday night, I said something along the lines of, “I’ll just be happy with survival on Wednesday. Moral victory? Yeah. I’ll take a moral victory. Escape with some confidence and win your next four games.”

In that segment and in this week’s Channel Seed Podcast here at Cyclone Fanatic, I was not confident in Iowa State’s chances here. In fact in the podcast, I spelled out a worst-case scenario – 30-point type loss.

A combination of things made me feel this way. The way that the schedule was set up was one of them. Playing one game since Dec. 19 and traveling to Lawrence on Jan. 9 is a very unenviable task. I questioned this team’s mental toughness and believe that I had all the right in the world to do so. 

But you know what? From that standpoint, this team proved me wrong. They didn’t win and yes, I absolutely am playing the moral victory card here (sue me) but these Cyclones finally proved that they have some heart, some grit and marbles too.

A handful of guys stepped up and took (and made) big shots in critical times.

Georges Niang entered the starting lineup and was productive with 13 and seven. Korie Lucious only turned the basketball over three times. Once Will Clyburn decided to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hoop (I was a little concerned that Clyburn was going to give us a replay f the Iowa game after the first five minutes), he was great with 16 and seven. And what about Melvin Ejim? The junior was in total beast mode with 19 and 11.

I’ll go this route. Going into tonight, I wasn’t sure that this team could get to nine wins in the Big 12. After this game, Iowa State winning its next five doesn’t sound crazy to me at all.

That loss was painful, no doubt. But I also know that after that Cyclone stinger, I feel a heck of a lot better about the rest of this season. It’s all because of mental toughness. All night long, when Kansas started to roll and that crowd got rowdy, the Cyclones always seemed to have an answer.   

Play like that over the course of the next 17 games and Iowa State will go dancing for the second year in a row and heck, could place as high as second in what appears to be a weak Big 12.