MBB: Winning the Cyclone way

ISU guard Diante Garrett goes up for a shot during the second half of the game against Nebraska. Garrett had 11 points and seven assists in Iowa State’s 78–74 win. Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Tim Reuter

ISU guard Diante Garrett goes up for a shot during the second half of the game against Nebraska. Garrett had 11 points and seven assists in Iowa State’s 78–74 win. Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Chris Cuellar —

It wasn’t the prettiest basketball game to watch.

Nebraska (13-15, 1-12) and Iowa State (14-14, 3-10) both shot under 50 percent, combined for 25 turnovers and 37 fouls and took part in an up-and-down game with plenty of whistles and stoppages.

It didn’t matter — getting a win was all it did.

“We know that we’ve worked hard, and we’ve always been so close,”  said ISU junior forward Craig Brackins. “To finally get the win and have that feeling that we know we should have had in a couple games. We can’t dwell on the past.”

It took until midway through the second half for the crowd at Hilton Coliseum to get on its feet for any substantial period of time, as the Cyclones went into halftime down seven points to the last place Cornhuskers. Not known as a come from behind squad, the Cyclones fought through the deficit and shook off the weight of a six-game losing streak.

It wasn’t familiar territory for coach Greg McDermott’s team, who, until now, hadn’t been able to register a win in the month of February, but the coach never stopped praising his team’s hard work and determination.

“We came out in the second half and strung together a lot of stops. I remember looking up at the scoreboard with about 11:50 to go and they’d only scored eight points in minutes,” said guard Scott Christopherson, who added 17 points to the Cyclone cause. “I think that was what got us back into the game.”

Up two points at the three-minute mark, Brackins’ one-handed alley-oop may have literally and figuratively slammed the door on the Huskers attempting to put Iowa State in the Big 12 cellar.

“Craig is a great player and he rose to the occasion and made some spectacular plays and got us over that bump,” Christopherson said. “With him being the leader of the team, that’s what we need him to do.”

Brackins totaled 21 points and 10 rebounds — 14 and five of which occurred in the second frame. He wasn’t going to be held back from attacking the basket, and his 7-for-12 night put away, however briefly, memories of the 7-for-33 shooting he had experienced in his last two games. Iowa State took the lead with 5:45 left in the game from a 3-pointer from Brackins and never looked back.

“Some guys hide when they struggle and some guys attack it, and right now that’s what [Craig] is doing,” McDermott said. “Some of our redshirts were working out, and Craig was on the other end shooting around 90 minutes before game time, just trying to get this right.” 

If the emotion in the building after the first half was what one Cyclone Alley student member described as “apathy,” the final buzzer could only be relief.

Iowa State lost nine out of 10, and the only two wins in Big 12 play prior to Wednesday night was against the Cornhuskers and Colorado. A loss at the hands of the Cornhuskers on the ISU home floor would have been devastating, and McDermott is just pleased his squad was able to prevent it.

“It feels good, as I’ve eluded to during this stretch where we haven’t won, they’ve continued to work hard,” McDermott said. “They don’t practice like a team that’s 2-10 in conference.

“I really felt like we went into the A&M game, Oklahoma State, at Kansas, at Missouri — we went into those games with confidence. I don’t think we were intimidated by any of those teams — we just couldn’t sustain it. Tonight, we survived a pretty good shooting night from Nebraska and still won our way.”

Free throws went in, highlight dunks went down and the Cyclones out-rebounded the Huskers. It all paid off. The first Cyclone win in a month was met with hugs and high fives all around, and now the Cyclones get to carry their reemerging confidence on the road Saturday.

They don’t care about winning pretty.