Seniors prepared for one last shot at Hilton Coliseum

Chris Babb watches the game against Kansas on Feb. 25 at Hilton Coliseum. Cyclones lost 108-96. 

Alex Halsted

The first stretch of the Fred Hoiberg era is nearing its end.

When Hoiberg returned to Ames in April 2010 to coach his alma mater, he brought with him a group of transfers to help build the program. Come March 6, the last of that group will run on and then off the court at Hilton Coliseum one final time.

“There’s definitely going to be a lot of emotion going into this last game,” said ISU senior Chris Babb, who has played two seasons and been at Iowa State for three. “Even though we didn’t play that first year, we’ve still been a part of [Hoiberg’s] whole era, and I think it’s kind of been a new face for Cyclone basketball the past few years.

“To be a part of that is something special.”

Babb and Anthony Booker have been a part of the team since the beginning of the Hoiberg era, and Austin McBeth is right there with them, having joined midway through Hoiberg’s inaugural season at the helm. Meanwhile, Tyrus McGee, Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn have spent two years each in Ames, with McGee playing for both seasons and Lucious and Clyburn playing this season.

The group of six seniors has witnessed the NCAA tournament return to the picture — some on the court and some from afar — and has seen the return of “Hilton Magic” as Iowa State (19-10, 9-7 Big 12) has returned to the top 25 in NCAA attendance totals as of late.

Now they’ll hear their names echo in Hilton one last time.

“I remember my senior day,” Hoiberg said. “It was such a fun experience being on the court with my family. It’s a game you don’t forget, and I think these guys deserve a great sendoff for helping us get this program on the right track.”

The night comes with high stakes for Iowa State, too, as it welcomes No. 13 Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4) in desperate need of a successful week to boost its NCAA tournament resume.

The Cowboys beat the Cyclones in Stillwater, Okla., earlier this season 78-76. In that game, Iowa State led 74-70 late before allowing Oklahoma State to fight back for the win.

The circumstances, combined with the magnitude of the night for the transfers, only heighten the game.

“It’s a lot of emotion going into that,” Lucious said of senior night. “You spend your last two years at a university that gave you a shot playing your last collegiate basketball. It’s a big opportunity for us.”

While the transfers took turns at different times in the past three seasons sitting out, they became known as “the best scout team in the nation.” Their time now is for real, and the players are thankful Hoiberg gave them the shot to play.

“I think we kind of took that opportunity [to transfer] knowing this was our last shot to make something happen,” Babb said. “Whether it worked out or not at our previous school, this was our last opportunity. I think so far we’ve made the most of it.

“[Hoiberg] took that chance on us and so we had that respect for him that he gave us that opportunity.”