Hlas: Cyclones bounce back with bombs

Free-throw woes? Pshaw! Three-pointers are worth more.

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March 28, 2014 | 10:35 am

AMES — Who loses to lousy Texas Tech, then bumps off the nation’s 11th-ranked college basketball team three days later?

Who makes just 10 of 22 free throws and beats anybody?

The answer is an Iowa State team led by three seniors who did this, that, and the other thing Saturday in Hilton Coliseum, as long as the other thing wasn’t making foul shots.

The Cyclones popped in 11-of-22 three-pointers in their 73-67 victory over No. 11 Kansas State before a sellout crowd of 14,367. Since 3-pointers are worth three times more than free throws, who’s to quibble?

Plus, ISU had seven more rebounds than the Wildcats. And, its passing was primo.

Seniors Korie Lucious, Chris Babb and Will Clyburn stepped up for a team that had no one step up Wednesday in Lubbock during a dreadful 56-51 loss to Texas Tech.

Lucious had all 10 of his points and seven of his eight assists in the second half. He calmly knocked in a 3-pointer on ISU’s first possession after halftime to give his team a 29-27 lead, setting off an avalanche of threes. The Cyclones made eight in the half, and five of their first six baskets after intermission were from that distance.

But it was Lucious’ decision-making with the ball — not always a strong suit this season — that stood out.

“They move the basketball,” said K-State coach Bruce Weber. “They’re very unselfish. They get it to the next guy, to the next guy. I thought Korie Lucious turned down two or three (shots) that led for a little better shot, a little more-open shot.”

Babb did what he does, which is defend. K-State senior guard Rodney McGruder is an offensive maestro, but had to work hard to get 13 points against Babb, who played all 40 minutes.

Were it not for Clyburn’s 6-of-9 effort from the line … Check that. Were it not for Clyburn’s overall game, K-State would have won.

After Iowa State bowed out of the NCAA tourney last March, Cyclone star Royce White claimed the redshirting Clyburn was better than him. It was a nice thing to say, but wasn’t true.

However, Clyburn was the best player in this particular game. He had 24 points, 10 rebounds, five offensive boards, and a defensive play that was the game’s defining moment.

Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez tried to chased down an errant pass on the far sideline with 5:30 left and the Cyclones up 61-56. As Rodriguez was about to fall out of bounds, he fired the ball off the pressuring Clyburn.

That’s an effective move 99 times out of 100. But this time, the ball took a weird carom and then sat spinning on the floor, refusing to curl out of bounds.

Weber compared it to an infield grounder that wouldn’t cross the foul line. Hoiberg said “It had spin like a bowling ball with a little bit of English.”

Clyburn, after briefly staring in disbelief, grabbed the ball and whipped it to Lucious on an everybody-on-none fast break.

Lucious could have laid the ball in the basket, but instead handed it to Melvin Ejim. His two-hand slam produced a 7-point lead and the day’s biggest crowd noise in a loud two hours.

It takes a quality foe to get anyone’s fans worked up. The Wildcats had allowed no more than 71 points in any of their first 18 games, and the 71 was to Michigan.

“They’re a great team,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said, “a very experienced team and well-coached. I love their offense. That stuff they run is extremely difficult to guard. Constant motion and movement.

“It’s a little bit similar to the way we play. I think you try to go out there and play unpredictable basketball.”

Unpredictable is right. Who shoots better from behind the 3-point line than the foul line?

Hoiberg coughed as if he was asked about the free-throwing.

“Sorry,” he said. “Made me choke.”

His team didn’t, though. Good ballgame, good opponent. Good win. 

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