Buzzer beaten: Cyclones fall to Buckeyes


Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

ISU redshirt senior Chris Babb is helped off the court by teammate freshman Nkereuwem Okoro after the Cyclones’ 75-78 loss to Ohio State in the last second of the third-round game of the NCAA tournament on March 24, 2013, at the University of Dayton Arena. Babb was injured in the first half and did not play the second half of his final game as a Cyclone.

Dean Berhow-Goll

DAYTON, Ohio — If it was ever possible to sum up Iowa State’s season in one moment, it happened on March 24, 2013, in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Ohio State.

A lost rebound awarded No. 2-seeded Ohio State the ball and a chance at a game-winning shot. Instead of running the drawn-up play for the last shot, OSU floor general Aaron Craft held the ball at the top of the key and waited for the clock to tick.

Then, with only 0.5 seconds left, Craft sunk his only 3-point shot of the game and with it, Iowa State’s hope of reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in more than a decade.

“Those six seniors brought us back,” said Georges Niang with teary eyes after the game. “And to have it taken away on one play is just tough to handle.”

The waning minutes of the game contained nearly every up-and-down characteristic of Iowa State’s season — 3-point shooting, controversial calls and heartbreak.

Time and time again throughout the regular season, Iowa State (23-11) found itself in need of a run when it trailed — and again found it.

At the 6:04 mark, Iowa State trailed 69-56 having just allowed a 17-5 OSU run. A slew of 3-pointers sparked a 13-0 ISU run capped off by an and-one layup by Korie Lucious, tying the game at 69-69.

Then, with 1:41 left in the game, Will Clyburn attacked the right side and put in a layup that would’ve put Iowa State ahead 77-74, possibly even 78-74 with the foul. 

But the foul called was on Clyburn, as Ohio State’s Craft drew a charge under the basket, sending him to the free-throw line, where he tied the game at 75-75.

The only bucket for the rest of the game was Craft’s, sending Ohio State into the round of 16.

Craft’s dagger marked the fifth game in which the Cyclones have lost in the waning moments, adding another tally alongside both overtime losses to Kansas, the Oklahoma State last-second loss on a shot by Marcus Smart and the Texas loss that was sent into double overtime on a last-second shot.

“We’ve seen so many buzzer-beaters and so many shots go in at the last couple seconds of the game, about four or five of our games and a lot of overtimes,” said ISU point guard Korie Lucious. “It just broke my heart for us to go through it again as hard as we’ve been working this year we knew this was our opportunity to try and make a run and make a name for Iowa State, and Aaron Craft just made a nice play.”

Aside from the charge call and Iowa State’s run, something much bigger was happening at the end of the bench, or more specifically, it wasn’t happening.

Iowa State’s All-Big 12 defensive player Chris Babb sat with ice on the left ankle that he sprained going in for a layup with 2:17 left in the first half. Babb didn’t play the rest of the game after he and the team doctor decided he couldn’t go in.

“My last college game to go like that,” Babb trailed off. “I wanted nothing more than to get out there and play with our team, but I would’ve put our team at a disadvantage if I really went out there.

“It hurt definitely not to be out there, but I had a lot of trust in my team. They didn’t let me down at all. I’m proud of the way we fought.”

All these events led to an emotion-filled locker room after the game. Niang wept talking about his love for his team amidst a sea of microphones and cameras, Babb sat with a left ankle enveloped by tape and ice like he did most of the second half, while the rest sat with heads down thinking of what could have been.

If only a call would have gone one way, if only Babb hadn’t sprained his ankle, if only a different sequence of events had taken place to give Iowa State a win, putting them into the round of 16.

But a sequence of events did take place to get Iowa State to this point. Hoiberg brought in six transfers from all over the country to form this team — the same team that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, the same team that was picked to lose to Notre Dame in the first round, the same team that nearly beat the Big Ten Tournament Champions to get to the Sweet Sixteen.

“I told those guys I love them,” Hoiberg said. “It’s heartbreaking for those six seniors who won’t put on an Iowa State uniform again. But for what those kids did for our program, to put Iowa State basketball back on the map, is an unbelievable thing.

“Take it from a lifelong Cyclone that has a passion for athletic programs — and obviously specifically basketball because of my playing days and now my coaching days — for what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished in the last two years, words can’t describe it.”