“It did feel like we were down a lot more than what we were,” Smart said. “And it felt like we were down forever.
“But this team has unbelievable heart. We fought. We knew we had a chance to win, just because of how we play defensively.”
The defense was there late, with Smart producing four of his five steals at crucial moments of OSU’s rally. Still, the Cyclones shot 51.9 percent from the floor and worked their spread offense for seven 3-pointers as well as driving layups, outscoring OSU 36-32 in the paint.
“I just thought we were a step slow tonight,” Ford said. “You knew IowaState was going to come out and play like a caged lion. They had a lot on the line. I didn’t think we responded to that very well.
“But you’ve got to give IowaState the credit. I thought they played really hard. They played more aggressive than they normally play. They had a lot of things clicking.”
Now that’s what the Cowboys will be seeking Saturday, when the No. 9 Wildcats visit Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Brown and Le’Bryan Nash added 14 each for the Cowboys, who shot just 41.5 percent from the floor. OSU missed its first nine 3-point tries and finished 4-of-23 from the arc.
Will Clyburn had 20 points to lead IowaState, which had five players finish in double figures.
At 12-5 in the Big 12, OSU owns a one-game lead over Oklahoma, which moved to 11-6 with a home win over West Virginia Wednesday night. Should the teams finish in a tie, the Sooners own the tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament.
Ford dismissed the sense of urgency notion, although his players suggested otherwise.
“We’re having a good year,” Ford said. “It was a tough game tonight. We’ve got a lot of momentum. We’ve won a lot of games lately.
“We want to play better than we did tonight, no question. I think that’s important. We don’t feel too good about ourselves right now. As I told our team, we shouldn’t. They shouldn’t feel good about tonight’s performance; about that alone, just tonight.
“We need to play better Saturday, but I think we're still in pretty good shape. We just need to play better.”