AMES — They called a brief players-only meeting before leaving Lubbock. They assembled for a rare late-night film breakdown upon arriving back in Ames.
In short: Iowa State took every measure it could to flush the painful memory of Saturday’s shocking 78-73 Big 12 loss at Texas Tech.
“It was late,” Cyclone forward Dustin Hogue said of the team-wide self-appraisals on each end of a depressing flight. “We were up here (at the Sukup Basketball Complex) all night.”
Sky-high is where ninth-ranked ISU (14-4, 4-2) operated before being humbled by the league’s worst team.
An ESPN GameDay-capping 86-81 triumph over Kansas had occurred seven days before Saturday’s stunner. A comeback win over Kansas State followed and the Cyclones found themselves soaring atop the conference standings.
Too much, too soon? Maybe.
"When you play a team that’s last in your league you feel you can just make up anything," said Cyclone forward Georges Niang, who scored 10 points in Saturday’s setback. "That’s not the case in the Big 12."
The Red Raiders (11-9 1-6) dealt a body blow to complacency by knocking ISU down three pegs to fourth in the still-early Big 12 race with an 8 p.m. Big Monday matchup with No. 17 Texas (14-5, 3-3) looming at Hilton Coliseum.
“I think emotions are running high after a game like that,” Niang said of the verbal exchanges post-Tech.. “Some stuff is said out of character and some stuff is said that’s truthful. But I feel like that shouldn’t have been the case. We should have been addressing these problems after winning games.”
The most nagging issue lately has been woeful starts — and on the road in particular. ISU fell behind 18-1 at Baylor before losing 74-73 in the final seconds. Saturday, Tech struck for a 20-1 run that turned a 7-3 Cyclones’ lead into a 19-point deficit too large to fully erase despite a late surge.
"You have to go out there, I don’t care who you’re playing, and be the aggressor," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. "So you’ve got to come out and throw the first punch."
Why has it been the other way around sometimes? Despite Saturday’s late fact-finding missions, few concrete answers emerged, but stay tuned.
“We’ll go over that today and hopefully there won’t be a next time we’ll have to discuss why there’s 20-1 runs," Niang said. "I really couldn’t put a thumb on what happened. I just feel like it was a barrage. That’s really how I’d put it.”
Now Niang and the Cyclones must put the effects of it behind them.
The battle-tested Longhorns (14-5, 3-3) are coming off a 75-62 home loss to Big 12-leading Kansas. Isaiah Taylor starred for Texas with 23 points, but the Jayhawks used a 36-18 second-half surge to pull away.
“It’s a team that’s capable of playing as well as any team in the country,” Hoiberg said of the Longhorns. “So we’ve got to move past what happened (Saturday). I’m confident our group will and we’ll come out with great effort tomorrow night.”
Texas, as usual, shines most on the defensive end, where it ranks third in the country in opponent’s field goal percentage (34.9). Strong, agile big men such as Myles Turner, Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley help the Longhorns out-rebound foes by an average of 11.5 boards per game, which is the second-best margin in the nation.
“Obviously length will be a big issue,” Hoiberg said.
As for the nagging issues (slow starts, lack of a sense of urgency), those tend to vanish once a sold-out Hilton amps up the noise. Letting go may be the hardest part, but that’s what Saturday’s extra film session aimed to address.
“A lot of guys are dedicated,” Hogue said. “A lot of guys felt that loss. Nobody wanted to feel that again so a lot of guys just came in at night and watched film and pointed their finger not at everybody else, but at their mistakes. I think that’s the first step in getting over a loss like that.”
Maybe it was the last step, too — for now, anyway.
“I guess it’s good that those guys can sit in a room and try to see and nit-pick what happened: ‘what could I have done better in this moment?’" Hoiberg said. "Again, it’s all hopefully part of the learning process for this group so that hopefully you don’t go through that again.”