Monté Morris hit the deck hard not once, but twice.
Inside one minute to play Saturday at Kansas State, Iowa State’s gutsy point guard ended up writhing on the baseline in pain on both ends of the floor. The last time — which led to a 3-point play and a 69-68 Cyclone lead with 29 seconds left — appeared to form the framework of a game-winner.
Not Saturday for suddenly struggling ISU (20-8, 10-6).
Georges Niang turned over an inbounds pass with 16 seconds left, Wesley Iwundu stole it and dunked it and the No. 12 Cyclones couldn’t come close with a potential answer in the closing seconds as the Wildcats came back for a 70-69 win at Bramlage Coliseum.
“I feel like we had this one, then (there were) a couple plays down the stretch that you wish you had back,” Niang said on the Cyclone Radio Network postgame show. “It just eats you up on the inside when you lose games like this, that’s for sure, but we’ve got a quick turnaround and we have to move on.”
Up next for the Cyclones (20-8, 10-6) on Big Monday: Second-place Oklahoma, which trailed ninth-place TCU for most of Saturday’s game at home before surging to a 67-60 win.
“This is one that just makes you want to throw up,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team held a 12-point lead with 10 minutes left but was outscored 22-9 down the stretch. “it’s a hurt locker room. We’ve got to find away to regroup, get back together and come out fighting on Monday.”
The Cyclones started both halves swinging in Manhattan, racing to a 10-2 lead early, and turning a seven-point halftime edge into a 12-point cushion two minute into the second half.
ISU shined from 3-point range early, with Niang sinking a career-high five, Naz Long hitting three and Dustin Hogue making two. Matt Thomas dropped in his only 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half and the Cyclones — who shot 53 percent from beyond the arc before the break — appeared poised to avoid their first losing streak of the season.
“We were out there making plays, there’s no doubt about it,” said Hoiberg, whose team also suffered its first home loss of the season Wednesday against Baylor. “Then a couple bad things happened and we didn’t respond very well to it. I thought our heads went down. You’ve got find a way to fight through those tough times, especially when you’re on the road.”
That didn’t happen Saturday — or Wednesday, for that matter, when the No. 19 Bears used a salvo of 3-pointers to turn an eight-point deficit with 8:08 left into a nine-point win at Hilton.
ISU’s consecutive losses dropped it into a three-way tie for third place in the Big 12 standings.
“We dropped two important ones,” said Long, whose 30-footer with two seconds left didn’t touch rim or glass. “It hurts.”
The Wildcats (8-9, 15-15) outscored the Cyclones 37-3 in bench points and 46-24 in points in the paint. Reserves Nigel Johnson and Justin Edwards combined to score 33 points, including six of K-State’s final 10.
Niang led ISU with 21 points. Jameel McKay notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Morris scored 15 points and Long dealt out a game-high five assists.
None of it was enough. Now the 16th-ranked Sooners (20-8, 11-5) come to Ames seeking a regular season sweep.
“It might be a good thing that this is a quick (turnaround), so we can flush this one away as quick as possible,” Hoiberg said.