Iowa State stuns No. 2 Houston 57-53 to hand Cougars first loss of the season

Cyclones freshman Milan Momcilovic hit a go-ahead, fadeaway bucket late in the final minute to lift ISU to the upset

Iowa State handed Houston its first loss of the season on Tuesday night in Ames.
Iowa State handed Houston its first loss of the season Tuesday in Ames. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Maybe it was the massive winter storm working its way through the Midwest or a resurgence of “Hilton Magic,” but No. 2 Houston was not prepared for its first trip to Ames since joining the Big 12 conference.

Unranked Iowa State flew past the Cougars early and held on late to pull off a 57-53 upset win Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum, marking Houston’s first loss of the season. The Cougars (14-1) were the last remaining undefeated team in Division I men’s basketball. Iowa State now has seven wins over top-10 opponents the past two seasons, the most in the country.

The win was sealed with a wild shot from freshman Milan Momcilovic. After not scoring in the second half, Momcilovic caught a pass in the corner with the game tied and drilled a ridiculous, fadeaway, contested bucket with 31 seconds left to put the Cyclones back in the lead 55-53.

He then hit a pair of free throws after Houston missed a 3-point attempt on the other end, which sealed the four-point win.

Momcilovic finished with 11 points and three rebounds and shot 4-of-8 from the field for the Cyclones (12-3). Tamin Lipsey led Iowa State with 14 points. They were the only two to score in double figures for the Cyclones, who shot 3-of-15 from beyond the arc as a group.

Iowa State got the jump early. It opened the night on a 14-0 run and held Houston in single digits through the first 12:30 of the game. The Cougars were plagued by turnovers early, too, which is very uncharacteristic of Kelvin Sampson’s group. They had eight of their 16 turnovers on the night in the first 10 minutes of the contest, despite entering the night averaging just 9.1 turnovers per game this season. They had 12 in the first half.

"We peed down our leg," Sampson said, via the Ames Tribune's Travis Hines.

Iowa State took a 31-21 lead into halftime, which marked the first time the Cougars trailed at the break this season and by far the fewest points they’ve scored in a first half. Star L.J. Cryer was held scoreless in the first half.

Houston finally came alive in the second half. The Cougars tied the game after outscoring Iowa State 20-10 to start the second period, a run capped by Jamal Shead when he came up with a second consecutive block and dropped it in on the other end.

Shead then gave the Cougars their first lead of the night, 51-50, with a jumper from the free-throw line with just more than three minutes left. Yet that was as far ahead as they got. The Cyclones quickly retook the lead, and after Shead tied it up briefly, Momcilovic hit his clutch shot.

“It was important that we came out and set the tone of the game,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said, via CycloneFanatic. “We talked about it, we needed to throw the first punch, we needed to be aggressive, we needed to set the tone. I think we set the tone right away. Certainly there was points in the game where it felt like we were hanging on, but I think our guys were able to dig deep.”

Emanuel Sharp led Houston with 20 points and five rebounds on the night, and he shot 5-of-10 from the 3-point line. Shead finished with 14 points. Cryer, who entered the game averaging more than 17 points per contest, finished with just five points and shot 2-of-9 from the field.

The Cougars’ schedule, after a relatively easy start, was always going to get significantly harder once conference play kicked up. The Big 12 had six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this week, which is the most in the country. Houston will take on TCU — which went down to the wire with No. 3 Kansas last week — next on Saturday.

The Cyclones are now 12-3 on the season. This victory came on the heels of an eight-point loss to No. 9 Oklahoma on Saturday and marked their first win over a ranked opponent this season. They’ll host Oklahoma State on Saturday before traveling to No. 18 BYU next week.