AMES — The shot heard ‘round the Big 12 world still resonates for Iowa State’s Naz Long.
It’s his shot, after all — the one that kept the Cyclones’ alive in Monday’s landmark 98-97 triple-overtime win at No. 18 Oklahoma State, and it garnered praise from folks within the towers on campus, both residential and ivory ones.
“My philosophy teacher, he said, ‘Great shot, man,’” said Long, whose 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in regulation helped No. 17 ISU (17-4, 5-4) elude a 19th straight loss in Stillwater. “I said, ‘That’s cool. Now how about this Socrates? Let’s get back to that.’”
Apparently, Long’s not merely of the “I shoot, therefore I am” camp.
The sharp-shooting Canadian’s appreciation of deep thought — from Classical Greece to the Enightenment and beyond — brings us to today’s 3 p.m. conference matchup with struggling TCU (9-12, 0-9) at Hilton Coliseum.
And it doesn’t take anything resembling the Socratic Method to arrive at the truth that the Cyclones hold a decided advantage, one they downplay to avoid that dreaded term: “letdown.”
“We’ve got to come with the same approach,” said Long, who has hit one 3-pointer in the past four games. “Coach (Fred Hoiberg) said that exact same thing. Although they’re 0-9, they almost beat Texas (this week). It’s just been a lot of single-digit losses. They’re coming out and competing just like they have no losses, so we have to approach it the same way we approach any other game.”
The Horned Frogs have endured three single-digit Big 12 losses to be precise, including the last two.
The Longhorns held on for a 59-54 win Tuesday at Fort Worth.
TCU lost, 60-54, last weekend at Texas Tech — and opened conference play with a five-point setback to West Virginia.
It’s not a cakewalk,” said ISU forward Melvin Ejim, who leads the Big 12 in scoring at 18.3 points per game. “Even though it’s the second half of our (conference) stretch, we’ve still got to be focused. We’ve got to be prepared and go into it with the same mentality as before because we need these games. We can’t afford to lose anymore.”
The Cyclones emerged from an arduous stretch of eight straight games against teams ranked then and/or now with a 4-4 mark.
Their final nine conference games will feature just two top 25 teams, which means they’ll face less talent, but more hunger from foes as the regular season winds down.
“There’s no days off in this league,” Hoiberg said. “If you do take a day off, you’re probably not going to win.”
Long — who also hit two key late free throws Monday — never did.
His journey back from shooting struggles began, as always, with extra work in the gym.
It’s not mindless toil.
Not by any stretch.
“I like the fact that (Enlightenment philosopher) John Locke, he believed that we don’t come into the world with knowledge, but we learn everything through experience,” said Long, who made it a point to add he’s no “expert” on philosophy, yet enjoys the perspective it provides. “That whole idea, I like it, because it just shows that in all aspects of life you’ve got to grind for what you want. You can always get better, because we know nothing.”
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