KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After spending 40 minutes matching Oklahoma's Buddy Hield shot-for-shot in the Big 12 Tournament, Iowa State star Georges Niang was asked whether he could appreciate their dramatic duel. "You want me to be honest?" he replied.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After spending 40 minutes matching Oklahoma's Buddy Hield shot-for-shot in the Big 12 Tournament, Iowa State star Georges Niang was asked whether he could appreciate their dramatic duel.
"You want me to be honest?" he replied.
OK, maybe the immediate aftermath of the No. 21 Cyclone's 79-76 loss to the sixth-ranked Sooners isn't the best time for reflection. But after pouring in 31 points for Iowa State, and nearly countering the 39 that Hield put up, Niang had added another memorable chapter to his standout career.
"Buddy was amazing but Georges' second-half effort was just as good," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "He willed us back into the game."
The sixth-seeded Cyclones (21-11) trailed Oklahoma (24-6) by 14 midway through the second half before Niang helped them make it a game. But after squandering several chances to get within a possession, it wasn't until Deonte Burton's 3-pointer at the buzzer that they finally did.
Matt Thomas contributed 13 points, Burton finished with 12 and Abdel Nader had 11 for the Cyclones, who were trying to win their third consecutive Big 12 Tournament title.
"I'm really upset, obviously. Being in the Big 12 for four years and going out like this stings," Niang said. "The competition that goes on in the Big 12 is special and something that I'll miss."
Ryan Spangler finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Isaiah Cousins also had 10 points for the No. 3 seed Sooners (24-6). They advanced to play ninth-ranked West Virginia in the semifinals.
"It was a game that could have gone either way," Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. "We got a little bit of a margin in the second half. Proud of our guys for finishing it out."
As usual, Iowa State fans packed inside the Sprint Center, making their annual pilgrimage south on Interstate 35 in cars plastered in bumper stickers, flags and every other manner of Cyclones paraphernalia.
They seemed to give their boys a spark in the opening minutes, too.
The game eventually settled into a back-and-forth affair between teams that spent all season firmly entrenched in the Top 25. And it wasn't until Hield got going midway through the half that the Sooners created the slightest bit of separation, taking a 35-29 advantage into the break.
It grew quickly in the opening minutes of the second half, and a crucial series of plays near the midway point appeared to give Oklahoma enough breathing room to feel comfortable.
They began when the Cyclones' Nader was called for charging and Cyclones coach Steve Prohm went ballistic, drawing a quick technical foul. Hield made both foul shots. Then, when the Sooners set up offense, Isaiah Cousins threw a lob that Hield dunked while getting fouled, and he made that free throw, too.
The five-point trip gave the Sooners a 55-42 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Iowa State countered with seven quick points a few minutes later, and Niang proceeded to keep Iowa State in the game. The wily senior at one point scored 12 consecutive points for the Cyclones, including a couple of 3-pointers that even had Oklahoma fans expressing their appreciation.
Niang converted a three-point play to get the Cyclones within 72-66, then Nader buried a 3-pointer from in front of his own bench to make it 73-69 with just over a minute to go.
The Cyclones elected to play defense rather than foul, and it paid off when they forced Hield into an air-balled 3-pointer and a shot-clock violation. But with an open look from the corner at the other end, Nader misfired on a 3 that would have made it a one-point game and Spangler corralled the rebound.
The senior calmly made both foul shots to help seal the win.
"We got a lot of loose balls, we got a lot of opportunities in transition and got to the line," Hield said. "We wanted to come in here and prove something tonight."
The Cyclone's Monte Morris, an All-Big 12 performer, was limited to five points and two assists while dealing with a sore shoulder. He was just 1 for 9 from the field. "I'll give him a day to get away and get rested up," Prohm said. "We need him at full strength to be at the highest level."
Iowa State: Niang had 25 of his 31 points in the second half. It was the most scored by a Cyclones player in the Big 12 Tournament since Jake Anderson had 33 against Colorado in 2011. ... Iowa State had won its last six games in the tournament.
Oklahoma: Hield was 14 of 21 from the field and 9 for 9 from the foul line. He also had nine rebounds. ... The tournament scoring record is 43 points, set by Texas Tech's Mike Singletary against Texas A&M in 2009. ... The Sooners have not won the tournament since winning three straight from 2001-03.
Iowa State awaits its NCAA Tournament seed on Sunday.
Oklahoma plays West Virginia in the semifinals Friday night.
Follow Dave Skretta on Twitter @APdaveskretta