After Wednesday night, we are now down to two teams in the race for being the Big 12 regular season champion: Kansas and Kansas State. Oklahoma State had a chance to keep in step with both teams by beating Iowa State and Kansas State. That chance was blown tonight at the Hilton against the Cyclones.
The Cyclones controlled this game from the tip off, but the Cowboys used a couple of runs to get back in the game. They needed this victory to help their chances to get a golden ticket to the Big Dance. They played like a unit and left everything on the court to secure this victory.
Will Clyburn, the senior guard, played his heart out by leading the Cyclones with 20 points to bolster its NCAA tournament hopes.
“Will was terrific. He was very aggressive all game long,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I heard a guy behind me yell ‘Why?’ and then it went in.” The fan said that after Clyburn hit a three to respond to the Cowboys pulling within three after two steals by Marcus Smart. Clyburn’s three gave the Cyclones the school record for threes in a season.
The one Cyclone whose name was talked about a lot tonight by the commentators was Korie Lucious. Lucious played with energy and passion to make sure his team would survive this game with a win. He just scored 11 points, but it was his vision on the court that was impressive. He slashed, passed the ball and found the weak spots in the Cowboys defense.
The Cowboys did have a chance to take control of the game on a few possessions but could never get over the hump.
“We got back in the game a couple of times, but we never could quite get over the hump,I think that probably got them in the (NCAA) tournament. I thought they were already in,” coach Travis Ford said. Even with the great performance by Smart, who scored 24 points and crashed the boards with authority. They even had three players score in double figures–Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash–but that still wasn’t enough to pull out the victory.
The Cyclones were 16-1 at home this season and their only loss came to Kansas in double overtime. This win should put them in much better shape to make a postseason run, but they might want to beat West Virginia to just make sure they make it to the Big Dance and not to the little dance (NIT).
The Cowboys now get to regroup and prepare for a marquee match-up against the Kansas State Wildcats, who come into town this Saturday. That game will have implications on the Big 12 regular season and for seeding in the Big 12 tournament, which is just a week away. If Kansas State wins and Kansas wins at Baylor on Saturday, they both will be Big 12 Champions. If they both lose, they both still are the Champions. If either team losses, the other team gets to be the Big 12 outright champion.
So, Kansas and Kansas State: all eyes will be on you on Saturday.