KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Monte Morris headed to the corner in front of Iowa State’s bench as the final few seconds ticked off the clock, and in a fluid motion rose up over the Longhorns’ Demarcus Holland, letting his shot leave his fingertips as the final buzzer sounded.
“I was just praying and hoping it would go in,” Morris said later.
Consider the prayer answered.
The 18-foot jumper capped a dramatic 12-0 closing run, giving the No. 13 Cyclones a 69-67 victory over the Longhorns in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Thursday night.
“What an unbelievable game,” said Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, who could merely grin as he shook hands with Texas counterpart Rick Barnes, his team in a jubilant pile on the floor.
The defending tournament champion Cyclones will face the No. 15 Oklahoma, which rallied to beat Oklahoma State 64-49, in the semifinals Friday night.
“Still not sure how we won it,” Hoiberg said. “Our guys hung together.”
Morris had a big part in it. He finished with 24 points for the No. 2 seed Cyclones (23-8), who trailed by 16 points before clawing back into the game. Still, Iowa State trailed 67-57 with less than 4 minutes to go when it unleashed a full-court press that helped it draw even.
“We really felt that during the end of the game, Texas was getting really comfortable with holding the ball, so we really wanted to speed them up,” said Georges Niang, who added 22 points for the Cyclones. “The full court press really helped with that.”
Morris’ 3-pointer with 1:42 left tied it at 67, and the teams swapped empty possessions before Texas (20-13) got the ball back with 38.1 seconds left.
Isaiah Taylor allowed the shot clock to melt down before driving the lane and missing a running jumper. Texas got the rebound and kicked it out to Javan Felix, but he misfired on a long 3-pointer and Hogue grabbed the long rebound and called timeout.
Then, with 5.8 seconds left, Hogue inbounded to Morris, who hit the shot of the game.
“We just didn’t finish it,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of my guys.”
Jonathan Holmes finished with 15 points, Taylor had 13 and Felix 10 for the No. 7 seed Longhorns, who now must wait to see whether they’ve earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We can’t control anything right now,” Holland said. “We are who we are right now.”
The Longhorns, accustomed to pummeling opponents in the post, beat the Cyclones at their own game in the first half. Felix hit a pair of 3-pointers, 7-footer Myles Turner knocked down another and Texas used 6-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc to help build its halftime cushion.
It wasn’t just offense, though. The Longhorns clamped down on defense.
After the Cyclones got to 15-14 on a basket by Niang with 12:51 left, they went nearly 10 minutes without scoring, missing all 11 field-goal attempts. It wasn’t until Niang got loose for a bucket with 3:05 left that the drought ended. By then, Texas led 29-16.
Iowa State went on a bit of a run in the closing minutes to get within 36-25 at the break, but the Longhorns pushed the lead back to 46-31 on yet another outside binge.
That soon became the status quo: Every time Iowa State scored, a heavily-pro Cyclones crowd roared in approval. Every time they cheered, the Longhorns quickly found an answer.
Until the final few minutes of the game, when Iowa State finally made a run stick.
“Great teams find a way,” Hoiberg said, “and our team did that tonight.”
Barnes has been under fire all season after his team started off ranked in the top 10, then went on a midseason swoon. Now, the question is not only whether the Longhorns will make the NCAA tournament field but whether that will be enough for him to keep his job.
Just how evenly were these teams matched? Both were 10 of 22 from 3-point range and 11 of 13 from the foul line. Iowa State had just one more field goal than the Longhorns.
Texas: Holmes also had nine rebounds. … Texas fell to 12-4 in Big 12 quarterfinals under Barnes. … Taylor also had five assists. …
Iowa State: The Cyclones’ four-game win streak against Texas is a school-best. … Niang also had six assists. … Iowa State has come from behind to win its last three games.
Texas gets to spend a couple tense days waiting for Selection Sunday.
Iowa State will face the Sooners on Friday night.
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