By Rob Gray
AMES — “Foul!”
The shout came from the bench, but with Hilton Coliseum’s 14,384 fans at a fever pitch, Iowa State’s poised backup freshman guard Monte Morris couldn’t detect it.
Just a few seconds remained in last Friday’s thrilling 85-82 win against Iowa.
Fred Hoiberg — the coach of the No. 13 Cyclones — planned to have his team foul the Hawkeyes’ Zach McCabe before he could hoist a potentially game-tying 3-point shot.
Instead, crossed wires led to an open look.
But McCabe missed and Morris exhaled as ISU celebrated a wild win.
“We went over that (Monday),” said Morris, who’s mostly been a stabilizing force for the Cyclones (8-0), who play George Mason (5-4) Sunday in the Diamond Head Classic at Honolulu, Hawaii. “I’ve got it down pat now. It’s just a learning experience. I’m glad it happened and we won — and (didn’t) go to OT and we lost or something like that.”
Hoiberg said his team drilled specifically on late-game situations for about half of Monday’s practice.
How’d they look?
“We’ve worked on late-game situations all throughout the season,” said Hoiberg, whose team is off to its best start since 1996-97. “We just put a little extra time into it (Monday), because we’ve looked over the last there years of exactly different types of situations — up to with five seconds left, down two, with three seconds left, full court, half court, underneath our own basket defending. You try to work on as many of those as possible where you can carry it over to a game and be comfortable with it.”
It’s the up three with a handful of seconds left scenario that’s been gut-wrenching for ISU in recent seasons.
Last season, two Big 12 overtime losses came with last-second regulation 3s attached.
Earlier this month, Northern Iowa forced overtime with a buzzer-beating 3, but the Cyclones later surged to the win.
“There’s a lot of great coaches that don’t foul — (Michigan State’s Tom) Izzo, last year, he didn’t foul,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people about it to get their take on it. Believe it or not, more people don’t foul than do.”
Hoiberg went on to say he’ll continue to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis.
“We’ll look at it both ways, we’ll practice both ways and try to make the best decision,” he said.
Morris said it’s one thing to watch such a tense play unfold from afar, another to be an adrenaline-filled part of it.“If I was at home, I would have been yelling at whoever the point guard was — ‘C’mon man, foul, foul, foul,’” said Morris, who has a better than 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. “But when you’re in the action … the little things can slip right out of your mind.”