ISU men see early exit from Big 12 Tournament


Photo: Jake Lovett/Iowa State Daily

Texas forward Clint Chapman, 53, and guard J’Covan Brown, 14, celebrate after Brown converted a layup and was fouled by ISU guard Chris Babb, 2. Brown led the Longhorns with 23 points, including 16 in the second half, in the 71-65 victory in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

Jeremiah Davis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Coming into the Big 12 Tournament, there was talk of the ISU men’s basketball team making a run at the championship and improving its seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Thirteen turnovers later, that dream is gone and the No. 25 Cyclones (22-10, 12-6 Big 12) are headed back to Ames earlier than expected.

“It sucks that we lost in the first round, just because, personally, I think we’re a better team than them,” said forward Royce White, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. “And to lose two times to a team you’re better than is – it’s unreal. It’s very disappointing.”

In the preparation for the game, the Cyclones looked loose and jovial. A video showed them playing pick up basketball with coaches’ children in a hotel lobby Wednesday night.

But rather than carry over that looseness and being at ease, White said he thought the team came out tight and forced too many things at times in the game.

“I think it turned in reverse; once we got to the game, we were too tight,” White said of being loose before the game. “We weren’t loose enough and that’s part of the reason we turned it over so many times [and] we missed some of our assignments. We’ve got to find a way to maintain that looseness, even when we get to the game.”

Despite that, Iowa State clawed its way out of the stiff start, thanks in part to a poor shooting first half from Texas (20-12, 9-9), which shot 26.3 percent from the field in the first stanza.

Coming out of halftime, it looked like the Cyclones were going to run away with the game. Twice Iowa State had a lead of 11 points. But a ten-minute run of multiple offensive rebounds from Texas, mistakes offensively and a cold shooting streak for the Cyclones got the Longhorns back in the game. Texas outscored Iowa State by 19 during the run, flipping a 40-29 Cyclone advantage to a 55-47 Longhorn lead.

And though guard Chris Babb has been lauded by many for his defensive prowess, Texas guard J’Covan Brown – who ended with 23 points, leading all scorers – was the spark that kept the Longhorns in the game, and ultimately helped them win it.

“They outscore us by 19 points in that 10-minute stretch, and that’s the ballgame,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. “They made big plays down the stretch and we didn’t.

“[Texas] got 16 offensive rebounds against us tonight, and that’s just way too many. We weren’t able to play in transition [during that stretch] and that’s where we’re at our best. We didn’t get the boards, and they did a good job going out and attacking, getting the game and the tempo where they needed it.”

For the Cyclones, the loss was just one more that got away. But with the NCAA Tournament looming, Hoiberg and the players said it will be important for the team to get past its disappointment with the loss.

Growing and learning from the setback is crucial, they said, if Iowa State hopes to make a run going forward.

“We need to go back, learn from this [and] everybody’s got to be looking at themselves in the mirror and asking themselves what they can do better,” said guard Scott Christopherson, who finished with 10 points on 7-16 shooting. “We’ve had some disappointing losses this year, there’s no doubt about that, this is one that obviously stings as much, if not more, than any other one.

“We’ll have a chance to go back, have a couple extra days of practice to work on ourselves and hopefully make the corrections we need to make to move forward and play better basketball next week.”

Both Christopherson and White said that, obviously, the Cyclones would have loved to continue on in the tournament, but that the loss may have been a blessing in disguise.

White said that given Iowa State’s history this season – bouncing back from close defeats – it may be the perfect time for the Cyclones to suffer a setback.

“It’s perfect, if you’re looking at where we’re about to go next,” White said. “Maybe we needed this loss. It works it mysterious ways, so maybe we needed this.”