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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Cyclones lose instant classic, bounce back is key

Iowa State’s 87-83 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night was an absolutely pleasure to watch – other than the wrong team ending up on the right end of the scoreboard, of course.

Damn.

The Cyclones, who led for the majority of the game, fell just short on the road vs. one of the best offensive teams in all of college basketball.

With Oklahoma’s win, it will likely set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown when the Sooners travel to Kansas on Monday night (8 p.m. on ESPN).

How is a guy supposed to react to Iowa State’s loss though?

It’s tricky. 

It stings because no matter how you spin it, Iowa State, a team with Final Four aspirations, missed out on a giant opportunity to get a major leg up on its competition in the Big 12.

In addition to Georges Niang’s 29 points (games like this are quietly becoming the norm for him), Deonte Burton came off the bench to score 19 points in only 20 minutes of play.

The thing is, losing this game did not eliminate any of Iowa State’s goals for the year.

My guess is that this year’s Big 12 champion will have four or five losses. The league is as good as it has ever been, folks.

Iowa State’s formula to have a chance at a championship come March is still the same: Win your home games and steal the ones that you should on the road – plus a few more. 

Back to Burton, where I have a few more thoughts…

1) I was wrong about him. Offensively, he has been much, much better than what I had anticipated.

2) I still don’t believe he is a guy who will produce like that on offense consistently throughout Big 12 play. 

That is what is so frustrating about the loss. The Cyclones played really, really well and still came up short.

Niang and Burton were fantastic. The effort and intensity were there on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma standout Buddy Hield scored 22 points but it took him 23 shots to do so. The Cyclones were an efficient 43.8 percent from 3-point range and only turned it over 10 times.

If you want to nitpick, Oklahoma outscored Iowa State 15-7 on second-chance points. The Sooners 13 offensive rebounds turned out to be the difference.

For the first time this year, I feel like depth hurt Iowa State, who basically went six deep (Hallice Cooke only chipped in three minutes). Naz Mitrou-Long was missed on Saturday in Norman. In fact, I’ll make the argument that Iowa State would have won that game with Naz. That’s a hypothetical though and not worth analyzing. 

This wasn’t a bad loss at all. I actually feel like this team is in a much better spot mentally than the Cyclones a year ago at this time.

If that turns out to be true, we will see proof of it on Wednesday when Texas Tech (a good team that handily beat Texas on Saturday) comes to town (8 p.m. on ESPNU).

This group rarely has an issue of getting “up” for Oklahoma or Kansas.

But off of the tough loss, will they be “up” for Texas Tech?

Stay tuned. 

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