At halftime, the video board at Hilton Coliseum played highlights of the season. Clips of Iowa State successes against Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas played in front of a crowd that couldn’t have felt farther removed from those signature moments.
The Cyclones trailed Oklahoma 37-18 on their home floor. The video tribute to the season almost seemed like a mockery.
Five minutes into the second half, not much had changed. OU led 48-28, Ryan Spangler had just blocked an ISU shot out of bounds, and Isaiah Cousins told the Cyclone bench, profanely, what he thought of Hilton Magic.
Unfortunately for Cousins, he did so in earshot of an official, who rang up the technical foul as the TV timeout began. And somewhere, somehow, something changed.
Georges Niang hit the technical free throws, then drove to the basket, laid it in, drew the foul and hit another free throw. A personal 5-0 run, and the Hilton crowd turned the noise up a notch. Monte Morris blocked a shot, Iowa State went back down the floor, and Niang found Morris for a wide-open three.
Over the years, Hilton Magic has taken a lot of forms. Opponents missing late free throws, Cyclone players having career nights, upsets coming out of nowhere. This game held none of those things…but how many college basketball crowds are capable of turning the volume up to 11 when their team is still down 12?
Hilton filled with noise. Some fans were screaming and plugging their ears at the same time. And Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger did the sensible thing: he called timeout. Surely this was all his veteran team needed. Calm their nerves, calm the crowd a bit, come back out and execute with a double-digit lead still intact.
Oklahoma came back out. And the crowd turned the volume all the way back up.
Jordan Woodard missed a three-pointer. The Sooners got the rebound, but then turned it over.
Niang found Morris for another three. The crowd kept roaring.
Niang stole the ball and found Morris in transition for the layup. The lead was cut to seven.
Another Oklahoma miss–how can you shoot when you can’t hear?–and now Niang, driving and scoring to cut the lead to five.
You thought it was loud when the lead was 12. Cousins–he of the technical foul that started all this–had his pocket picked by Morris. ISU off and running. Dustin Hogue, right-handed slam. Three-point game. Timeout OU.
At this point, even press row was feeling the effects. Writers were scrapping storylines and wondering just how they would tell this story, however it turned out. People were scrambling to find out what the biggest comeback in school history was (and as it turned out, ISU would match its best-ever comeback win).
Back to the action. Oklahoma ball, crowd cranks it back up, another miss and a Cyclone rebound.
Now here’s where it all threatened to go off the rails. Hogue was wide open for a corner three that would’ve tied the game, but he also saw a wide-open path to the hoop. He drove, Spangler slid across to defend, Hogue elevated and tried to avoid the contact.
Offensive foul. A stunned Fred Hoiberg just stood next to the official with both hands on his head. There were several predictions during the dismal first half that Hoiberg would pick up a technical foul that night. This was the call that might have brought about a T, but Hoiberg couldn’t afford it, not with his team on a 17-0 run.
The call, and the TV timeout that came with it, threatened to suck some of the energy out of the crowd. They cranked it up again on the next OU possession, but TaShawn Thomas drew a foul on Niang and went to the line for two shots.
Of course, ask anyone who’s ever been a part of the crowd at Hilton Coliseum what they can do to a free-throw shooter.
Thomas missed ’em both. On the other end, Morris blew by Cousins, laid it in and drew the foul. Now a free throw from the sure-handed point guard to tie the game…
Wait, he missed it? That wasn’t a part of this script. Again, a moment, where this run might’ve been sidetracked. Oklahoma gets one more chance to stem the tide and still have the lead.
Cue the Hilton crowd. Buddy Hield never misses against Iowa State. But he missed.
Did the next possession feel inevitable? For Cyclone fans, that probably depends on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty. But either way, ISU came down and shared the ball like Hoiberg has been coaching his teams to do for five years. A couple of crisp passes and Abdel Nader has it on the left wing. He drives, draws a crowd in the lane and kicks it to Hogue in the corner.
Hogue for the three and the lead? Hogue, the scrappy fan favorite from Indian Hills who got the longest and loudest cheers before the game tonight, his Senior Night? Hollywood would reject this script.
Iowa State leads 50-48. A 22-0 run.
Of course, it wasn’t over. In fact, the run only took 5:21 of actual gametime, with ISU taking its first lead at the 9:34 mark. But the Cyclones weren’t done, scoring on nine of their next 12 possessions to open up a nine-point lead. After that, OU would never get any closer than six points.
The halftime video montage was long since forgotten, but its final message–complete with clips from the triumph last March–somehow seemed very appropriate.
See you in Kansas City.