A campaign that was filled with ups and downs contributed to a mostly successful season for the 2014-2015 Iowa State Cyclones. Pre-season hype surrounded the Ames area, UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones was going to fill in for departed guard DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang was going to continue to terrorize opponents with his “old-man” game, and Monte Morris was going to shatter his assist to turnover ratio record he set the year before. However, the Cyclones did not receive much national respect regarding preseason predictions after being selected to finish fifth in the conference. Iowa State wanted to challenge Kansas for the top spot in the standings and end the Jayhawks’ incredible 10 year run of winning (or sharing) the Big 12 title.
The Cyclones started off the season ranked No. 14 in the country and cruised through the first four games of the season, highlighted by a 23 point harassment of a Georgia State team that went on to upset Baylor in the NCAA tournament. A trip to the Sprint Center (Hilton South) in Kansas City for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic was in store next, but the Cyclones fell short against an improved Maryland team. Wins against Iowa and No. 20 Arkansas, sprinkled with a few more beat downs followed…and then came the South Carolina head scratcher. Iowa State had cracked the top 10 with a No. 9 ranking just days before the game and were carrying loads of momentum. A dreadful shooting display (35.1% from the field, 1-18 from 3 point range) and a couple of double-digit deficits contributed to the first painful loss of the season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Double-digit deficits became somewhat of a theme for the ’14-’15 Cyclones.
When conference season began, hopes of a Big 12 title still were high for Iowa State. The Cyclones survived the conference opener in a tough game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and a hard-fought, foul-driven road game against West Virginia. After a close 74-73 loss to Baylor (trailed by 17 at one point), College Gameday made its first appearance to Hilton Coliseum for a showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks. Led by Monte Morris’ double-double, (10 points, 11 assists) Iowa State upset the Jayhawks, 86-81 to cap off an incredible day. At the time, the victory seemed like a potential turning point for the Cyclones…..and then a Texas-sized catastrophe in Lubbock just a week later. As a passionate Cyclone fan for over 15 years of my life, the loss to Texas Tech this year was right up there with one of the worst I’ve seen (there’s been some bad ones, I’m looking at you 2001 Hampton…more on that later). One of those games that just makes you want to flip your dining room table over. *Sigh*
Through the next stretch, Iowa State went on to pretty much win the games they should’ve and lost the games you would have expected. Couldn’t pull the upset in Allen Fieldhouse, crushed Texas Tech in revenge game, fell to Oklahoma on the road in an offensive shootout, and three straight victories over West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Texas. The Cyclones put themselves into a position in which they controlled their own destiny for the Big 12 regular season championship.
The next opponent was No.19 Baylor at home, a place that the Bears have never won (0-13). Fans are thinking, “Oh we got this,” (I admit I was guilty of thinking this also). Baylor thought otherwise, behind 14 three-pointers, the Bears sealed their first victory in Ames. *Sigh* Against Kansas State the Cyclones surrendered a 20-9 run in the last three minutes by the Wildcats and turned the ball over with a chance to win it. *Sigh* Then, the last regular season game miracle in which Iowa State stormed back from a 21 point deficit en route to a 77-70 victory on Senior Night.
Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, it was a little nerve racking to wonder about what this team would do. The Cyclones responded to the toe stubbing end of the regular season by ripping off five straight come from behind victories, including a buzzer beater by Monte Morris against Texas and a 17 point comeback victory against Kansas for the Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship. The Cyclones earned back-to-back Big 12 titles and were selected as a 3 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Many predicted the Cyclones to have a deep run in the tournament, and the first game was going to a layup against the UAB Blazers. The Blazers limped through the regular season and earned a 14 seed by winning the Conference USA Championship. How could they upset the Cyclones? Get a lead early, don’t look back….game….Blazers. It was the worst NCAA Tournament loss for cyclone nation since (get ready Cyclone fans…deep breath)….Hampton in 2001.
Even though Iowa State suffered a tough loss in the NCAA Tournament, the season was still a success, and the Cyclones return a good nucleus and a couple transfers (what’s a Cyclone basketball team without new transfers) in Deonte Burton and Hallice Cooke, both will contribute significantly. Hopefully a deeper run in March is in store for the 2015-2016 Cyclones.
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