Syracuse's overtime win against Duke on Saturday night was the Game of the Season. It was hard to imagine something living up to the excitement and performance of both teams.
Well, two days later and we have a prime contender for that honor.
Oklahoma State and Iowa State went back and forth all Monday night -- and 40 minutes wasn't enough. Neither was 45 minutes. Or 50 minutes. The Cowboys and Cyclones went to three overtimes, with a Monte Morris 3-pointer in the final minute of the third overtime giving the Cyclones a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Le'Bryan Nash's contested fadeaway at the buzzer didn't fall.
Iowa State emerged with the victory, 98-97.
DeAndre Kane led the way with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Melvin Ejim (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Dustin Hogue (10 points, 14 rebounds) both notched double-doubles. Georges Niang had a monster first half, finishing with 17 points before fouling out.
Nash was constantly huge for Oklahoma State, making several key baskets in the second half and totaling 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists. After a very quiet first half, Marcus Smart had 20 points and nine rebounds -- while Markel Brown had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Cowboys.
For two teams that will likely be in the NCAA tournament next month, both Oklahoma State and Iowa State were playing in desperation mode on Monday night. It was two former top-10 teams looking to put together some momentum for the stretch run.
Iowa State was coming off a win, but had lost four of six. Oklahoma State had lost three of four -- and the loser of Monday would have dropped to seventh in the Big 12 at 4-5.
And both teams played like it. Iowa State led for most of regulation, seemingly having a repsonse for every Oklahoma State run. But the Cyclones went cold, while Smart and Nash came to life for Oklahoma State. Neither team was willing to give an inch in the final seconds, either.
Kane had a chance to win it in regulation, but settled for a 3-pointer instead of driving to the rim -- and Ejim's follow dunk was too late. In the first overtime, Morris was blocked on a baseline layup. And in the second extra period, Naz Long's 3-pointer in the final seconds tied it up (GIF above via @SBNation).
It was Iowa State's first win in Stillwater since 1988, ending an 18-game road losing streak to the Cowboys.
Moreover, this could give spur a bit of a run for Iowa State. With consecutive wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Cyclones now have four of their next six games at home -- and the two road games are at West Virginia and TCU. It's conceivable that Fred Hoiberg's crew could run off eight straight wins, or at least a 7-1 stretch in those eight games.
Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is now below .500 in the Big 12 -- and face Texas Tech and Texas in consecutive road games. For a preseason top-10 team and a club that was supposed to push Kansas for the conference title, it's disappointing spot to be in.
Other noteworthy things from Monday:
-- Syracuse stayed undefeated, moving to 22-0 with a 61-55 win over Notre Dame. Trevor Cooney was the star for the Orange, knocking down nine 3-pointers en route to 33 pointers. Notre Dame hung close throughout the game, but Cooney's outside shooting proved to be the difference.
-- Xavier has now lost three in a row and four of its last six games, as the Musketeers were blown out by Villanova, 81-58. James Bell led the Wildcats with 27 points and eight rebounds, hitting six 3-pointers in the process. Xavier turned the ball over 16 times – while Villanova had 25 assists on its 32 baskets.
-- Despite suspensions of two starters last week, Delaware is still unbeaten in the CAA. The Blue Hens took down Northeastern by 13 on Monday, moving to 9-0 in the league. Devon Saddler (more on him below) had 21 points and became Delaware's all-time leading scorer.
-- Another mid-major still unbeaten in conference play is Georgia State, which won its 13th straight game to improve to 9-0 in the Sun Belt. The Panthers took down South Alabama by 20.
-- Maybe Georgetown's win over Michigan State was the start of a run for the Hoyas. They beat DePaul on Monday, behind 26 points from Markel Starks.
-- Two of the night's better dunks, from Tennessee Tech's Javon McKay and then the aforementioned Devon Saddler.