There was 2 minutes, 48 seconds left on the clock when sophomore wing Buddy Hield was fouled in the act by Iowa State's Matt Thomas[/sdb]. He stepped to charity stripe to shoot his free throws and made both.
Those just two of Hield's career-high 30 points against the 16th-ranked Cyclones, but they were an important two points as they drew No. 23 Oklahoma to within one-point, 69-68, of ISU.
On the next possession, Hield came up big again. This time it was with a steal. Then he took his shot at the other end and missed.
It was one of just eight shots Hield wouldn't make all night. He hit 10-of-18 shots from the floor -- including 5-of-8 3-pointers -- at Hilton Coliseum and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line.
But Hield was alone in carrying the scoring load. The Sooners dropped just their third conference game of the season 81-75 on Saturday afternoon in Ames, Iowa.
Though sophomore wing Isaiah Cousins notched the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 boards and freshman point guard Jordan Woodard scored 10 points and dropped seven dimes, Hield accounted for 40 percent of OU's offensive production.
Hield wouldn't lay the loss at his teammates' feet, even though he'd done the most to keep Oklahoma in the game. As ISU defenders began zeroing in on him, he felt it was his duty to try to get open and make shots.
"As a basketball player, you've got to find ways to get open," he said. "I could've done more to help my teammates. I feel like we fought at the end, but we had some missed opportunities in the ballgame."
The dagger came late.
After Woodard hit a free throw to make it a one-possession ballgame with 1:09 left to play, Iowa State brought the ball up the court and found the man they'd been rallying around for the last 38 minutes, 51 seconds: Georges Niang.
Niang scored 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting in the game. Nine of those points came from 3-point buckets, but none was bigger than the one he buried with 58 seconds remaining in the game.
The man who is as much a true center as a pear is a true orange put the Cyclones up 76-70, and they never looked back.
"He's very versatile, very mobile and knows how to play and doesn't mind taking a big shot," said OU coach Lon Kruger of Niang. "I thought his 3 late there was a big shot that created a margin we couldn't ever quite come back from."
Sophomore forward [db]Ryan Spangler fell two points shy of earning a double-double. He scored eight points and pulled down 12 boards to lead the Sooners in rebounding.
"Ryan is just a terrific rebounder, and he works really hard," Kruger said. "He works really hard at it. He's got a good instinct as it relates to where the ball's coming off of a shot, and he thinks every one of them should be his."
For the second straight game, the Sooners won the board battle against Iowa State. They out rebounded the Cyclones 46-33 and had more than twice as many offensive boards (14) as the Cyclones (6), but couldn't make good use of them.
In Norman three weeks ago, the Sooners found a way to make use of those second-chance opportunities and outscored the Cyclones 22-2. In Ames, the Sooners missed lay-up after lay-up and scored just eight second-chance points to Iowa State's four.
"Always when you get an offensive board, you try to finish it with a bucket," Kruger said. "But I thought throughout the game we had some opportunities that we didn't finish.
"Of course Iowa State did too. We just have to slow down just a little bit and finish some opportunities better there and be a little more efficient."
It didn't help OU that Iowa State was able to go to its bread and butter most of the night.
Prior to the game's tip-off, ISU scored nearly a third (31.2 percent) of its points from beyond the arc.
Against the Sooners, the Cyclones hit 10 3-pointers, which amounted to 37 percent of ISU's offensive production. Even so, the Sooners had an opportunity to win the game late and fell just short.
"It seemed like for 40 minutes we were generally fighting from just a little bit of a deficit and couldn't quite get over the hump," Kruger said. "Two or three times guys did a good job of fighting to get back into it but couldn't get it where we needed it to be."