These Cyclones don't believe in moral victories

Narrow losses against two top-ten teams last week are still losses

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April 3, 2014 | 10:33 am

AMES — Iowa State guard Scott Christopherson's on a hot streak — in more ways than one.

For him and his teammates, last week’s narrow losses against No. 5 Missouri and No. 7 Kansas were deeply disappointing, not signs of progress.

“Oklahoma State does not care that we played Kansas tough at Kansas,” said Christopherson, whose Cyclones meet the Cowboys in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. Big 12 game at Hilton Coliseum. “Actually, nobody really cares.”

The game will be televised live on ESPNU.

The Cowboys (9-8, 2-2) own a three-game win streak in the series with ISU (12-5, 2-2).

Star guard Keiton Page drilled a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in regulation to send last season’s game to overtime and Oklahoma State eventually won, 96-87, handing the Cyclones one of two overtime losses in Big 12 play.

“It was a bitter defeat,” Cyclone forward Melvin Ejim said. “I think it was definitely one of the games we had and they got the best of us, so we’re going to go in there hungry for a win. (It’s) a game we definitely can’t give up. We’ve got to win.”

Last season, late letdowns arose from a lack of depth.

This season, ill-timed lack of execution and precision have been the concern.

“The biggest thing, the next step for us, is just learning how to close things out,” said Christopherson, who's scored in double figures in six straight games. “How to make those gritty, winning plays coming down to the last 10-12 minutes of the game; getting quality possessions every time, understanding what’s a good shot, what’s a bad shot, everybody understanding what defense we’re in and coming up with some of the loose balls we didn’t come up with. That’s what the teams that are in the top two or three in the league every year do and I think we’re capable of doing that.”

That’s also where the last two setbacks serve as potent learning tools.

In the 76-69 loss to Missouri at home, ISU struggled to win the 50-50 battles and endured a pounding on the boards.

In the 82-73 defeat at Kansas, the Cyclones showed toughness, controlling the game for 30 minutes before a Jayhawks run of 17-2 proved too much to overcome.

“Our guys have had, I think, a different level of focus since we’ve been in the conference (schedule),” said ISU assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger, who subbed for head coach Fred Hoiberg in Monday’s news conference. “There are no nights off in this league.”

That’s nothing new, but the Cyclones are upper division contenders now and must cultivate the attitude to match.

“There is no moral victory and there’s no star next to those games that says we stuck with them for 30 minutes,” Christopherson said tersely. “It’s a loss, whether you lose by five or lose by 40.”

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