Photo courtesy: Luke Lu, Iowa State University
AMES — What was that sound?
It was familiar… like the voice of a long forgotten friend. It did not sound exactly how you remembered it, but you knew you had heard it before Tre Jackson’s 3-pointer gave Iowa State a 46-45 lead over No. 9 Oklahoma on Saturday in Ames.
The biggest roar a COVID-19 sized crowd can allow filled the air at Hilton Coliseum. For a moment, a very brief moment, things felt normal.
The Cyclones had erased a 21-point deficit and suddenly a contest that looked like a first-round knockout had turned into a bout destined to go the distance.
It was a script we’ve seen before in this building. Back in the days of Georges and Buddy, Monte and Isaiah, Naz and Jordan, Jameel and Ryan, before a pandemic left arenas partially (or completely) empty and Iowa State unleashing a furious run to best another highly-ranked team at Hilton Coliseum was the norm.
Those were the days of magic…
For a brief moment on Saturday, I allowed my mind to wander after Jackson’s shot cleared the net. It wandered to the magic — the old friend we haven’t seen in awhile — and if this was the day we would be reunited.
Then Austin Reaves corralled his own miss on the other end and laid it back in to put the Sooners back on top. They would never surrender that lead again on their way to a 66-56 win, which dropped Iowa State to 0-13 in Big 12 play.
It was the program’s sixth consecutive loss inside this building, the longest such streak since Hilton Coliseum opened in 1971.
For 34 seconds, the magic felt so close and I allowed my mind to wander back to the days when it was ever-present. But, this day is this day and those days are those days.
And those days are in the past.
“Second half here tonight, I thought we were terrific. You know, our guys hung in there,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said after the game. “Took the lead. Just weren’t able to sustain it down the stretch. A couple miscues on both ends then they were able to extend the lead out to 10. And then Reaves hit the big three with about 45 seconds to go (when it was a) six point game or so and that was big, but that’s frustrating part.”
The frustrating part Prohm mentioned there is this team’s inability to sustain any sort of high-level success.
They’ll start a game appearing as though they hardly belong on the same floor as the Big 12’s best teams. The Cyclones dug themselves a 30-9 hole during the first 12 minutes against the Sooners.
That stretch will be answered by the 37-15 rally it took to claw their way back into the game and take the lead. The team we saw during that stretch would not only compete with the league’s best teams but potentially beat a few of them.
Then they’ll fall back into the things that allowed them to dig into their first half hole on the way to another loss.
“I don’t have answers to that and that’s probably the frustrating thing,” Prohm said. “As a coach, you want to be able to have the answers, push the right buttons.”
One button Prohm pushed on Saturday did seem to work for the most part and that was sitting starters Jaden Walker and Javan Johnson for the entirety of the second half.
Rasir Bolton, Tyler Harris, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Tre Jackson played all 20 minutes after halftime. That lineup, along with Solomon Young and a rejuvenated George Conditt, gave this team a chance with energy on the defensive end and an efficient attack offensively.
They moved the ball, made the extra pass and hit shots when they were open. Conditt attacked the glass with aggression and protected the rim with the swagger we all fell in love with during his freshman season two years ago.
“Those four guards that were out there that finished the (first) half, or played the majority of the last couple minutes of that half, we wanted to go back with those guys,” Prohm said. “So we could get off to a good start and get back in the game and just want guys out there that were gonna play with great, great energy and purpose. I thought they did that. And so hopefully the guys that didn’t get in, you know, Jaden, Javan and a couple other guys are ready to go Tuesday.”
Tuesday presents another opportunity for this team to try and sustain the success that has allowed them to compete in a few of their games against the Big 12’s beasts.
They’ll get the biggest beast on the block that night when they travel to Waco to take on No. 2 Baylor with the Bears fresh off their three-week pause due to COVID-19 and surely chomping at the bit to get back on the floor with their eyes set on winning a national title next month.
If these Cyclones can bottle up what they put out there against the Sooners while erasing a 21-point deficit, they will give themselves a chance.
For 34 seconds on Saturday, it felt like they had more than a chance. It seemed as though they had our old friend Hilton Magic behind them like those days of old.
Our old friend remains lost, though, and that’s pretty frustrating too.
I hope to hear that sound again soon.