AMES, Iowa — Oklahoma’s four-game winning streak is history. Iowa State’s Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim took care of that.
But the Sooners’ Buddy Hield might just be getting warmed up, and that should bode well for coach Lon Kruger’s team over the second half of the Big season.
No. 16 Iowa State hit key shots and free throws in the final 2 minutes to turn back the No. 23 Sooners 81-75 Saturday despite Hield’s career-high 30 points and a 46-33 rebounding advantage.
“It was a tough battle,” Kruger said. “Iowa State played great and deserved to win. We’ve got to learn from it and bounce back for another tough game in three or four days. That’s the nature of play in the conference this year.”
That would be a game at West Virginia on Wednesday. But the Sooners (17-5, 6-3 Big 12) have shown they can compete with anyone in the league, though Saturday they couldn’t get a handle on Niang or Ejim.
Niang scored a career-best 27 points, including a backbreaking 3-pointer in the final minute that helped the Cyclones (16-4, 4-4) win for just the second time in six games. Ejim added 22 points and matched his career high with 16 rebounds, his sixth double-double this season and 28th of his career.
Hield did his best to offset the Iowa State duo.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore scored 18 points in the first half and finished 10-for-18 from the field with five 3-pointers. He scored 22 in the first game with Iowa State, an 87-82 Sooner victory three weeks ago, and is averaging 18.7 points in conference games.
“My teammates and my coaches give me confidence to shoot the ball every time,” Hield said. “My teammates are finding good spots that I’m comfortable at. Then me being a basketball player, staying in the gym and trying to help my teammates in the basketball game.”
Iowa State did a better job on Hield over the final 15 1/2 minutes, and that helped the Cyclones build a 10-point lead.
After running his total to 25 on a breakaway dunk that tied the score at 46 with 15:53 left, Hield did not make another basket and managed only three shots the rest of the way.
“They started to pressure a little, started face guarding me a little bit,” he said. “Made it a little tough to get open. But I could have done more to help my teammates. I felt at the end we had some missed opportunities to win the ballgame.”
Oklahoma had pulled within three points when Niang buried a deep 3 to put Iowa State ahead 76-70 with 55.5 seconds left.
“I thought his 3 late was a big shot that created a margin that we could never quite come back from,” Kruger said.
In the earlier game, Oklahoma hammered Iowa State on the boards and piled up a 22-2 edge in second-chance points. The Sooners grabbed 14 offensive rebounds Saturday, but turned them into only four points.
“Always when you get an offensive board you’d like to try to finish it with a bucket,” Kruger said. “I thought throughout the game we had opportunities that we didn’t finish. Of course, Iowa State did, too. We just have to slow down a little bit and finish some opportunities that are there and try to be a little more efficient.”
After four losses in five games, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg made a big change to his lineup.
Hoiberg gave freshman Monte Morris his first start at point guard after he posted a 20-to-2 assist to turnover ratio in seven Big 12 games. The move also allowed the Cyclones to free up DeAndre Kane, the team’s second-leading scorer at nearly 17 points a game, for more opportunities to make plays from the wing.
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