AMES — Will Clyburn’s key corner 3-pointer helped quash an Oklahoma State run, but who’d made the pass?
“I don’t know who it was that found me,” the Iowa State guard/forward started to say.
Then teammate, roommate and fellow senior Korie Lucious raised his hand to laughter.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive, try to make a play,” Clyburn added.
It was one of those nights — all smiles and ultra-cooperative — for the Cyclones, who used a senior-led 8-0 run late to beat the No. 13 Cowboys 87-76 Wednesday before a crowd of 14,011 at Hilton Coliseum.
Clyburn scored a team-high 20 points on 7 of 10 field goal shooting, helping ISU (20-10, 10-7) possibly seal a second straight berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Maybe more than “possibly.”
“I think that probably got them into the tournament,” said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, whose team (22-7, 12-5) suffered its first loss in regulation since Jan. 21.
The Cyclones — who entered the night at a tenuous No. 53 in the RPI — notched their second win over a 13th-ranked team this season.
They fell behind 6-0, but led the final 36 minutes of the game despite a couple rough patches thanks to the Cowboys’ freshman star, Marcus Smart, who turned his third second-half steal into a reverse dunk to make the score 70-68 with 4:28 left.
Then came Clyburn’s 3-pointer, which he’d presaged with a pivotal offensive rebound that led to a pair of Melvin Ejim free throws after Oklahoma State had pulled within 67-64.
“Will was terrific,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, whose teamd had 21 assists to 27 field goals. “He was very aggressive all game long. He stepped up and shot that huge three when they cut it to two. I heard a guy behind me yell, ‘Why?’ Then everybody cheered. Yeah, he was aggressive.”
He wasn’t alone.
Among the six seniors, or the entire team, which set a single season school record with 295 3-pointers.
“We knew they were going to come out like a caged lion,” Ford said.
Freshman Georges Niang scored 12 of his 18 points in a first half that featured Cyclone sprees of 13-0 and 10-4.
Senior Anthony Booker delivered two blocks off the bench as Niang and Ejim (13 points, 12 rebounds) encountered foul trouble.
“First time my mom got to see me play,” Booker said. “I just want to keep playing, keep winning. I love these guys like brothers.”
Lucious had 11 points and six assists and senior Tyrus McGee cranked into microwave mode with 14 points in 24 minutes.
Senior Chris Babb soared for a rousing — and rare — dunk while creating a line of nine points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
“We came too far, worked too hard to let our season … kind of wither away,” Babb said. “And it was going in that direction.”
That was last weekend, in an 86-69 loss at Oklahoma.
Now the bubble’s been burst in a good way — possibly, or probably — heading into Saturday’s game at West Virginia and next week’s conference tournament.
“Watch out for the Cyclones,” Lucious said. “We’re coming. We can play with almost anybody. If we get stops I think we can play with anybody in the country.”
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