Are we sure it's not March yet?
In front of raucous crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena, No. 19 Oklahoma State and No. 16 Iowa State produced a scintillating Game-of-the-Year candidate before the Cyclones finally escaped Stillwater with a 98-97 triple-overtime victory.
ESPN had this note about ISU's win from a historical perspective:
Iowa State wins for the first time in Stillwater since March 2, 1988! The #16 Cyclones defeat #19 Oklahoma State 98-97 in 3 OTs! #ISUvsOKST— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) February 4, 2014
The Cyclones are now 5-4 in the Big 12, while OSU falls to 4-5, showing the strength of the conference, as CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello notes:
One of these teams will be below .500 in conference play by the end of the night. Yeah, the Big 12 is pretty damn good.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 4, 2014
DeAndre Kane led Fred Hoiberg's squad with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Melvin Ejim (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Dustin Hogue (10 and 14) notched double-doubles in the thrilling victory.
It was underclassmen Monte Morris and Naz Long, though, who were responsible for two of the Cyclones' biggest shots, as Long hit a game-tying three-pointer at the end of the second overtime, and Morris hit the three that won it for ISU in the final OT.
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde summed it up:
Heck of a win for Iowa State. Naz Long the unlikely hero. Really good game. Big 12 has been bonkers this year.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 4, 2014
It wasn't without a fight from the Cowboys.
Playing with a thin bench after the dismissal of reserve guard Stevie Clark earlier in the day, Travis Ford got a balanced effort from his team, which erased an eight-point second-half deficit and mounted several comebacks in the first two overtime periods.
Le'Bryan Nash led the team in scoring with 26 points, including all six of the Cowboys' points in the second overtime, while Marcus Smart chipped in 20, Markel Brown had 19 and 10 rebounds and Brian Williams had 15.
In regulation, Williams' huge slam gave the Cowboys a three-point lead (their largest to that point) with 6:45 remaining and sent Michael Cobbins into a state of disbelief, per CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb:
Smart scored at the cup on the next possession to extend the lead to five for the Cowboys, who looked like they were finally going to pull away. But little did we know, there was still more than a hour to play.
Kane and Matt Thomas knocked down some huge buckets to once again take the lead for the Cyclones, but when Kane misfired on a three at the end of regulation and Ejim's put-back dunk came a fraction of the second after the buzzer, the teams headed to overtime.
Playing without Georges Niang, who had 17 points but fouled out at the end of the second half, the Cyclones jumped out to a four-point lead with 1:38 to go, but Phil Forte drilled a three and Williams made one of two free throws to set up another last possession for Iowa State.
Morris' drive to the hoop was thwarted by the Cowboys to send the game to double OT. It looked at first as though there was contact, but a second glance showed good defense from Brown, per Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports' Seth Davis:
Upon further review I'm good with the no call. Some contact after the block but Markel Brown stripped him clean.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 4, 2014
Nash took over in the second overtime, scoring six consecutive points to give the Cowboys a three-point lead, which appeared to be enough. But after Thomas missed a three with under 10 seconds remaining, Kane pulled down the offensive rebound and found Long, who buried the three to quiet the crowd and secure a third OT.
College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster noted the unlikelihood of Long's bucket:
Naz Long had missed his last nine three before tying this game up.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 4, 2014
A Morris three and pair of free-throws from Long gave the Cyclones a three-point lead in third extra period, and that turned out to be just enough when Smart and Nash missed jumpers in the final seconds.
After the game Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg talked about the epic win via the Associated Press:
"To gut this win out was huge. It would have been a very difficult loss fighting three overtimes and walking out of here with a loss. I'm proud of our guys for finding a way to win it. I'll tip my hat to them, they played a great game, but my guys fought it out all night."
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State: A-
When Kane is knocking down shots from the outside, good luck trying to stop him. Granted, he actually entered Monday night shooting a career-best 36 percent from three, but his strength is undoubtedly his ability as a playmaker to get to the hoop and score or distribute.
The senior transfer was typically effective penetrating into the lane, but he also knocked down a trio of three-point attempts on the night on his way to 26 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and several big defensive plays.
Some of his decisions were questionable down the stretch, though, as he forced some shots. But he did enough to lead his team to a victory.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: B-
How would you grade Marcus Smart's performance?
Smart shows flashes of brilliance, like when he gets a head of steam going toward the hoop and there's no way you're going to stop him from scoring or getting to the line. Or when he assumes the role of unquestioned leader and looks to take over. Or when he locks opponents up on defense.
But then there are times when his shot selection is just brutal, or his propensity to flop hurts his defense (although the latter came in handy at the end of the game).
There were instances of both the high and low points for Smart on Monday night, as he finished with 20 points (6-of-14 shooting), nine rebounds, two assists (three turnovers) and a steal.
While his importance was apparent, especially on defense, he seemed to somewhat disappear down the stretch as Nash became the focal point on offense.
Georges Niang, Iowa State: B
Niang has been white-hot as of late, and he continued that for a while, scoring 17 points in the game's first 21 minutes.
For that stretch, the versatile sophomore was tremendous, showing off his unique ability at 6'7" and 240 pounds to take opponents off the dribble, run the offense and shoot.
He eventually slowed down and wasn't able to score before fouling out late in the second half, but he still added five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State: A
Nash was the Cowboys' go-to offensive option in the overtimes, and he finished with a team-high 26 points and several clutch buckets down the stretch to carry his team.
He found other ways to contribute, too, finishing with a nine rebounds and making several key plays on the defensive end. He tallied two steals and two blocks, including a massive help-side rejection in the second half after Kane had blown past Smart.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf put it simply:
Le'Bryan Nash doesn't get enough credit for the various roles he's had to play for Oklahoma State this season.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) February 4, 2014
The junior's energy, passion and inside strength were key for the Cowboys, and he was the major reason they stayed in this game.
Probably a long nap.
But after that, Iowa State hosts TCU and Oklahoma State travels to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. Both games are on Saturday, Feb. 8.