Flipping the switch: Cyclones use late run for comeback win


Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Junior Melvin Ejim dives to save the ball against Oklahoma in the second round of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship on March 14, 2013, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Ejim was called out on the play in the 73-66 win.

Alex Halsted

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Fred Hoiberg tried to take Will Clyburn out of the game after he picked up his fourth foul with 3:53 remaining, the redshirt senior had other plans.

Iowa State had just flipped the switch in the second half, going on a 12-0 run to tie Oklahoma at 60 after trailing by as many as 14 points. 

Clyburn, who struggled mightily prior to the 12-0 run, told coach Hoiberg to leave him in.

“I [saw] him about to take me out, and I’m like, ‘No man, I’ve got to stay in. I want to help the team. I know I can do something to help the team,’” Clyburn said.

Shortly after the timeout, following an offensive rebound from Melvin Ejim, Clyburn scored on an and-one after cutting to the basket to give the Cyclones (22-10, 11-7 Big 12) a one-point lead against the Sooners (20-11, 11-7). 

Iowa State never trailed again, winning 73-66 for its first win at the Big 12 Championship in the last eight seasons.

The Cyclones ended the game on a 25-6 run, holding the Sooners without a field goal in the final eight minutes. That run included 10 consecutive points from Clyburn, who scored 15 points in the second half after scoring just two in the first.

“He struggled early in that thing, and to go out there and make those plays, that’s huge,” Hoiberg said of Clyburn. “Earlier in the year, I don’t think he would have done that.”

Iowa State struggled to score in the first half, shooting just 11-of-31 from the field. During the final 7:42 of the game, though, the team could do no wrong.

In the run that would push the Cyclones to a comeback victory, they went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc after going 3-of-20 prior on 3-pointers and secured key, late-game rebounds.

The run came with Korie Lucious on the bench in favor of guard Bubu Palo, who tallied eight of his 10 minutes down the stretch.

“It’s just really about winning for me,” Lucious said of not playing at the end. “I don’t care if it’s myself or whoever. Bubu [Palo] came in today and gave us a great boost.”

Palo had just one assist and one rebound. But, after the Cyclones started their run with Palo on the court, Lucious wasn’t about to take the chance of disrupting his team’s rhythm.

“He actually came over to me — this is huge for a leader to do this — and he said: ‘You stay with those guys out there on the floor,’” Hoiberg said of Lucious.

The halftime discussion for Iowa State centered around better defense and rebounding, and both came to fruition in the second half. The Cyclones held the Sooners to 28.6 percent shooting and out-rebounded them 24-11 following the break.

With its back against the wall — and as a bubble team, quite possibly its postseason hopes — Iowa State responded accordingly.

“We kept telling everyone we have nothing else to play for. This could be our last game,” said Ejim, who scored a career-high 23 points to go with 12 rebounds. 

“We were just keeping that mentality of ‘win or go home.’ We had to come out like our backs were against the wall, because they were.

“We came out, and we fought, and we were able to come back from a big deficit and get the lead and win the game.”

Now Iowa State will prepare for a quick turnaround as it will face No. 7 Kansas on March 15, 2013 after the Jayhawks beat the Cyclones in overtime twice during the regular season.

“I want some payback,” Clyburn said. “They beat us twice during the year. Probably games we shouldn’t have lost, but hey, I’m ready for payback.”