No. 19 Oklahoma 83, Iowa State 82

Saturday, February 18th 2006, 9:01 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The Oklahoma Sooners are making it a yearly habit to pull off amazing comeback victories.

Michael Neal scored a career-high 29 points, including three free throws with 8.4 seconds left, as No. 19 Oklahoma rallied to beat Iowa State 83-82 on Saturday.

Neal hit eight 3-pointers _ another personal best _ in 12 attempts for the Sooners (17-6, 8-4 Big 12), who trailed by seven points with 72 seconds left but won for the eighth time in their last 10 games. He was attempting another 3 when Iowa State's John Neal fouled him, setting up the winning free throws.

Last Feb. 19, the Sooners won 69-68 at Kansas State when Drew Lavender hit a desperation baseline flip at the buzzer to cap a rally from a 16-point second-half deficit. That game became known in Oklahoma as the ``Miracle in Manhattan.''

``Today there was a miracle in Norman,'' Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. ``Today was a great win. Hopefully it will propel us down the stretch. Iowa State deserved to win.

``We weren't as good as them for 38 minutes, but we were for 40.''

Iowa State (14-11, 4-8) has lost four straight. The Cyclones haven't won at the Lloyd Noble Center since 1996, but they came close Saturday thanks to 24 points and nine assists from Curtis Stinson and 22 points and seven assists from his backcourt mate, Will Blalock.

``We had no answer for Blalock and Stinson,'' Sampson said. ``Iowa State has the two best guards on a single team in the Big 12.''

The Cyclones led 79-72 after a basket by Stinson with 1:12 left and 81-75 after he hit two free throws with 53.2 seconds left. But he missed 3-of-4 from the line in the final 41.4 seconds, opening the door for Oklahoma.

Stinson made one of two free throws with 20.8 seconds left to put Iowa State up 82-80. On the ensuing play, Oklahoma's Terrell Everett was well short on a contested 14-foot jumper. But the loose basketball found its way to Michael Neal, who shot from behind the arc while being fouled by Iowa State's John Neal.

Michael Neal, who scored 17 points in the final 7:02, swished all three free throws to give the Sooners their first lead since the 12:35 mark.

``The only thing in my mind was to hit them,'' he said. ``I didn't think about missing them.''

Sampson said the free throws were no sure thing, even though Michael Neal entered the game shooting 79.4 percent from the line.

``You've got to give Mike credit,'' Sampson said. ``Just because they called the foul doesn't mean he's going to hit all three free throws. He was tough enough to make those.''

Stinson drove the length of the court in the final seconds but missed an 8-foot underhanded scoop while being guarded by David Godbold.

``I wanted them to take it to the basket,'' Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan said. ``I wasn't on the court. From where I sat I thought maybe we should have a chance to shoot free throws. The referees didn't see that.''

Everett recorded his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 assists. The Sooners shot 53.8 percent from the field, including 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) from 3-point range. Michael Neal, who made his fourth start after coming off the bench most of the season, has made 42 of his last 74 3-point attempts, a 56.8 percent clip.

``When I got the ball with an open look I knew I was going to knock it down,'' Michael Neal said. ``When the ball was in my hands I just felt I had to make it for my team.''

Iowa State shot 56.1 percent from the field and went 9-of-14 from 3 (64.3 percent). Six of those 3-pointers came in the final 10 minutes of the first half and propelled the Cyclones to a 37-31 halftime lead.

Oklahoma led by as many as eight points early in the first half. Iowa State closed the half on a 7-0 run that included a 3-pointer by John Neal and two baskets by Stinson.

Michael Neal kept the Sooners in the game before halftime, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range and scoring 12 points.

Oklahoma opened the second half on a 12-2 run to go ahead 43-39, but Iowa State answered with a 12-4 spurt and the Cyclones stretched their lead to 65-54 with 7:19 left.

``This is the toughest loss we've had all year because our kids fought their guts out for 40 minutes in a hostile environment,'' Morgan said.