"We got back in the game a couple of times, but we never could quite get over the hump," Ford said. "I think that probably got them in the (NCAA) tournament. I thought they were already in."
Oklahoma State was one of four teams to rally from behind and beat Iowa State in the final minute this season.
The Cyclones did their best to ensure they wouldn't be in such a position again.
Iowa State, which blew a lead in the final minute and lost on Smart's buzzer-beater on Jan. 30, started the game on a 30-15 run. Niang buoyed the early spurt with 12 points, and Iowa State held the Cowboys scoreless on nine tries from 3-point range in building a 10-point halftime lead.
Niang swatted away an alley-oop pass before it got anywhere near the rim to open the second half. Clyburn followed with a transition 3, and Iowa State was off and running again.
McGee finished with 14 points and Melvin Ejim had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Cyclones.
"I think the difference between most late-game situations, we just continued to be aggressive down the stretch," Babb said.
The Cyclones, who are 16-1 at home, finish the regular season on the road against West Virginia on Saturday. Though Iowa State is in much better shape for the postseason after beating the Cowboys, it might need to beat the Mountaineers to ensure they don't have another home game this season — in the NIT.
The loss shouldn't impact Oklahoma State's postseason outlook all that much. The Cowboys faced an uphill climb in moving past Kansas and Kansas State in the Big 12 standings anyway, and they will get another chance at a marquee win against K-State on Saturday.
"Every game is a big game this time of year. Obviously Kansas State is having a heck of a year," Ford said.
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP