What could have been an epic collapse turned out to be a great escape for Iowa State. After seeing an 18-point lead evaporate, ISU scored the final points of the game to beat West Virginia, 69-67, in Big 12 men's basketball Wednesday night in Ames.
The Cyclones, now 12-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play heading into a Saturday game at TCU, seemed to be cruising to an easy win with a 56-38 lead with just over nine minutes to play. But the visiting Mountaineers staged quite a rally from that point on.
West Virginia tied the game at 67 with 14 seconds to play, but Iowa State converted on its final possession with Georges Niang banking in an uncontested shot from point blank range off an assist from Will Clyburn. After ISU scored with 2.5 seconds to play, WVU was unable to get the ball past half court on its final possession.
After missing their first 12 three-point field goal tries, the Mountaineers made 9 of their next 12 and that 180-degree turn in perimeter shooting fueled the big comeback.
WVU made it's first three-pointer with 10:58 left in the game as Eron Harris knocked down what seemed like an inconsequential shot that closed a comfortable Iowa State lead to 50-36. The Cyclones got the lead to 18 before another West Virginia three, this one from Jabarie Hinds, made it a 56-41 game with 8:45 to play. That shot triggered an 11-0 run for the Mountaineers, who whittled ISU's lead to 56-49 with 6:10 to play.
West Virginia got within three at 60-57 on another Harris trey with 3:42 to go. But Iowa State appeared to fend off the Mountaineer charge by padding its lead back to eight at 66-58 on a pair of Chris Babb free throws at the 1:50 mark. But WVU wasn't done raining in ridiculous threes and it hit three more in a span of 1:29, eventually tying the game at 67 on a Hinds three-pointer at the 0:14 mark.
Iowa State found an answer. After a timeout, the Cyclones ran a designed play with the penetrating Clyburn drawing defenders to him on the right side of the lane, leaving Niang unattended left of the basket.
The Cyclones were anemic in the game's opening minutes as well as at the end, but played efficiently and played well for a good portion of the game.
ISU didn't have a point at the first media timeout and trailed, 5-0. The Cyclones' first four made field goals were all of the three-point variety, making it a 14-12 WVU lead with 9:14 to play in the half. A dunk by Clyburn that made it 16-14 Mountaineers was Iowa State's first two-point bucket of the game and it came with 7:49 to go before halftime.
The Cyclones took their first lead on a Korie Lucious three with 7:07 to go in the half that made it 17-16. The lead changed hands one more time before Iowa State went back on top and took a 29-26 lead to the locker room at halftime.
The first four minutes of the second half, as is often the case, was the deciding stanza of the game. The Cyclones outscored WVU 11-2 before the first media timeout of the second half, capped by a Clyburn three-point play that made it 40-28 with 15:56 to go. A lay up by Niang made it 42-28, a dunk by Clyburn made it 44-30 and a three-pointer by Melvin Ejim stretched it to 47-30 with 12:33 to play.
Iowa State's lead was at least 14 points from that mark until West Virginia mounted its furious comeback over the final nine minutes.
Ejim led Iowa State with 16 points while Lucious scored 15 and Babb and Clyburn added 11. The Cyclones were uncharacteristically outrebounded (53-42) but Ejim did his part, grabbing 13 boards for a double-double performance on the night. Clyburn had nine rebounds for ISU. Lucious had eight assists. ISU shot 42 percent from the floor, 33 percent from three-point range, and 79 percent from the line.