FOX Hoops Road Trip: Cyclones fans sure are easy-going -- until tipoff
MAR 08, 2014 6:24p ET
AMES, Iowa -- Cold and windswept with the last remnants of a brutal winter, Iowa beckoned the FOX Sports College Basketball Road Trip here Saturday for the promise of a rematch between Oklahoma State and Iowa State. How could we resist two great programs and a massive grudge?
Arriving at Hilton Coliseum, our team of trekkers discussed the reputation of the building nestled in the quiet heart of the Midwest as a raucous, loud and wild home for college hoops.
What we didn’t expect was for everyone to be so nice.
With no room on press row we were politely guided to seats, and by the time I made it to mine, I’d already shaken hands with four strangers. Five people asked me if I was an NBA scout, and a fan behind me leaned forward to tap me on the shoulder. “If you’re writing about us,” he said as he smiled, “try to make us look good.”
Yep. Everyone at Iowa State’s so friendly and warm. Unless your name is Marcus Smart.
As Oklahoma State’s sophomore guard was introduced, the entire Iowa State student section – which calls itself “Cyclone Valley” – hilariously flopped to the ground. When it returned upright, one student produced a sign that read “Marcus Smart Flop Counter.”
An elderly lady in the row leaned in. “You see,” she said, “he flops a lot.”
I was sensing some hostility. And why wouldn’t there be? The Cyclones’ last matchup against the Cowboys was a three-overtime, barnburner that ended in a one-point Iowa State victory. Here again, to close out the regular season and ruin the ‘Clones’ Senior Day, was a team seeking vengeance.
For 16th-ranked Iowa State, another win could help raise its seed in the NCAA Tourney. For OK State, which could be a bubble team next weekend, the game was a must-win.
The pre-game proceedings were all sweet. The team heaped love upon seniors Deandre Kane and Melvin Ejim, the band playing the Canadian national anthem for the latter, whose hometown is Toronto.
But when the game started, Hilton Coliseum lived up to its reputation. The sweet, gentle Iowans I’d come to know and love over the past half hour turned into bloodthirsty superfans – and I was treated to one of the loudest arenas I’ve been in.
Cyclones’ struggles cuased teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, but when the play went their way, a roar so loud went up that a fan in the next seat turned to me and said “I think the ceiling might fall in.”
The teams fought back and forth with Kane and Georges Niang each netting 20 points. With two seconds left in regulation and the Cowboys up by three, sophomore Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte stood at the foul line with a chance to ice the game. He missed, giving the ‘Clones an opportunity to get the ball to sophomore Naz Long, who hit a three at the buzzer for the tie.
History was repeating itself. Maybe the ceiling might fall in.
After a streetfight of an overtime, Iowa State emerged with an 85-81 win to the relief of Cyclones fans on Senior Day.
And then came time to be polite Midwesterners again. At least until the NCAA Tourney, when all bets are off and the Cyclones might even bring down a ceiling or two.