AMES — Iowa State’s Naz Long watched as the basketball tumbled off the rim, then turned tail and ran.
Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte — an 89 percent foul shooter — had just missed a free throw that would have sealed a Cowboys win.
So Long could force overtime in Saturday’s tense Big 12 regular season finale at Hilton Coliseum if he got the ball before time expired.
And if star senior DeAndre Kane found him.
And only if his hypothetical desperation shot actually fell — exactly as it did at the end of regulation in the No. 17 Cyclones’ 98-97 triple-overtime win a month ago at Oklahoma State.
“The same thing that happened the last time,” said Long, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half and overtime as ISU rallied from a 16-point deficit to win 85-81 in overtime. “I find it weird Kane ended up with it again. I looked back and said, ‘Yo, Kane, hit me.’ And he hit me again. … I just put it up there and just gave it a chance and it went down.”
It appeared that’s where the Cyclones (23-7, 11-7) were headed, too, before a rousing comeback that set up Long’s shot and Kane and Matt Thomas’s win-sealing free throws in overtime.
Oklahoma State (20-11, 8-10) raced out of halftime on a 13-4 run to take a 45-29 lead on Le’Bryan Nash’s dunk with 16:12 left.
Then, something changed.
The defense tightened up, despite major foul trouble for standout senior Melvin Ejim, who fouled out in regulation.
Goerges Niang — who fouled out early in overtime — sank a 3.
Kane, who scored a team-high 27 points, then drove for a layup and Long added a 3.
All that fueled a 12-0 flourish for the Cyclones, who averted a third straight loss to close the regular season.
“You just keep playing,” said Kane, who added eight assists and seven rebounds. “You can’t really stop playing. You get down 16 and stop playing, they go up 30.”
Instead, the lead went back and forth before fate again took a hand for Long.
“I’d like to say I drew that one up,” said ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg, whose fourth-seeded team will play fifth-seeeded Kansas State at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the conference quarterfinals. “You don’t expect Forte to miss. He doesn’t miss very many of them, but we said, ‘Hey, if he misses, we’ve got to get that thing up the floor quick.’”
That’s what Kane did.
Long calmly did the rest before raising his hands triumphantly to the loud cheers of 14,384 fans.
“They contested it,” Long said. “Well, I think they contested it. I’m not sure, honestly. I was just looking at the rim.”
Marcus Smart led the Cowboys with 27 points, but also fouled out pre-overtime.
The Cyclones cemented the win with four straight free throws from Kane and Thomas, both of whom had missed key ones earlier.
ISU also successfully executed two strategic fouls while up three in the closing moments, a gambit which hasn’t always worked out for Hoiberg.
“It’s pretty much 50-50 whether you foul or defend,” Hoiberg said.
Saturday, it was 100 — for seniors, sophomores and freshman alike.“It was a great night,” Kane said. We had to get the win and we did that, thanks to Naz again.”