The night started with a sullen mood in Stillwater after the announcement of Stevie Clark‘s dismissal. This was a dark day for the program, and it spilled onto the court early against Iowa State. The Oklahoma State Cowboys got down early, but battled back after an emotional halftime ceremony honoring former coach Eddie Sutton. The Cowboys looked to be in control in the final minutes, but then Iowa State flexed their muscles and showed the world their biggest strength: getting easy shots and converting at a high efficiency. The Cyclones’ offense works harder than most teams without the ball, but all that work pays off and makes them one of the most lethal offenses in the country, and left the fans in Stillwater disappointed again after another home loss.
The Cyclones made clutch shot after clutch shot in a triple-overtime masterpiece on Monday night. Iowa State shot lights out on their way to a 98-97 victory. But the Cyclones shooting lights out — especially with the game on the line — should come as no surprise. The Cyclones are 17th in the country in effective field-goal percentage, and third-best in two-point field-goal percentage. They are able to move the ball very well, and get open shots for good shooters, and that is why they are one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Head coach Fred Hoiberg is a former NBA player who likes to use a practice that is primarily seen only in the pros: using screens to get favorable matchups, then exploit the mismatches. Georges Niang spent most of the night matched up against a much smaller player in the post, or a much slower player on the perimeter. This isn’t new for the Cyclones, this is what they do, and this is what has led them to being such a good shooting team. It’s not that they are that great of shooters, it is that they get good looks. Hitting open jump-shots is a lot easier than contested fall-aways — that’s some basketball rocket-science for you.
On Monday the Cyclones’ best player, DeAndre Kane, was matched up against a very strong defender, Marcus Smart. This would normally be cause for concern for most teams, but the Cyclones used ball-screens perfectly to allow Kane to get easy looks, and stay in the flow of the game. This game plan allowed Kane to come up big for Iowa State late in the game. But the two biggest shots come from two unlikely heroes, Naz Long and Monte Morris. Long hit a three-pointer with two seconds left in the second overtime to tie the game, and Morris hit a three-pointer with 42 seconds left in the third overtime to give Iowa State the lead for good.
Having guys like Long and Morris who can come up with clutch shots after having only made three combined shots all game is another big key to the Cyclones’ offensive success — they have shooting depth. Along with those two, as well as Kane and Niang, Iowa State also has Melvin Ejim and Matt Thomas who can step out beyond the arc and do damage. All of the ball-screens that Iowa State runs are meant to get open looks in the rim, but with six possible long-range threats, when a defense collapses the lane, there is bound to be open shooters on the perimeter.
The best part of Iowa State’s offense is that it is not a gimmick. They don’t throw up a bunch of threes and hope they fall, they execute better than any team in college basketball, and that is why they will be so dangerous come March. It doesn’t matter what defense you throw at them, the Cyclones will get buckets.