OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma lost its lead but didn't lose its cool.
Nate Carter scored 22 points and got Oklahoma back on track after it had squandered a 14-point lead as the Sooners beat Iowa State 68-63 in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday.
"We don't want to go home right now," Carter said. "We just want to keep playing, keep playing hard. We believe that if we play together, we can beat anybody."
The win sewed up a meeting with No. 2 Kansas, the tournament's top seed, in the quarterfinals on Friday. But it didn't come easy.
After the Cyclones (15-16) had rallied back to take the lead, Carter scored off an offensive rebound to get put ninth-seeded Oklahoma (16-14) back on top 56-55.
David Godbold's 3-pointer pushed Oklahoma's lead to four, and Iowa State went four minutes without scoring after its big comeback.
Godbold dived for a steal after Iowa State's Mike Taylor had lost control of the ball on the right wing and -- after a timeout -- he was fouled on the other end and hit 1-of-2 free throws with 54.2 seconds left. On his miss, he tracked down the rebound to set up Tony Crocker's two foul shots that made it 63-56.
Godbold said first-year coach Jeff Capel had been stressing that players needed to make the hustle plays and "get the 50/50 balls" to have a chance to win. The Sooners had lost their previous six games and were in jeopardy of their longest losing streak since they dropped eight games in a row in February 1969.
"We knew if they beat us to the ball, they would get the win," Godbold said.
Iowa State got within 66-63 on Dodie Dunson's 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left, but Carter hit two foul shots to seal the victory.
Crocker, making his first start since Oklahoma's 58-51 loss at Iowa State on Feb. 13, ended up with 15 points for his back-to-back double-figure scoring games since Jan. 1. Godbold and Taylor Griffin each added 11.
Taylor scored 18 points, Wesley Johnson got all 11 of his points in the second half and Dunson had 10 points for eighth-seeded Iowa State.
Without an unprecedented four wins in four days at the Big 12 tournament, both teams were likely playing for a chance at an NIT bid.
"That's something in the hands of someone else," Capel said. "We want to do everything we can to try to continue our season right now.
"When we get to the point our conference tournament is over with or if we lose, then we will start thinking about that. But right now I'm not sure," he said.
Iowa State shot 7-for-22 from 3-point range and broke the school's season record for 3s on Johnson's make in final minute. The Cyclones ended up with 203 3-pointers -- two more than they had last season.
Johnson and Jiri Hubalek, the Cyclones' second- and third-leading scorers, helped lead the second-half comeback after being held scoreless in the first half. The duo scored Iowa State's first six points after halftime and then contributed to a 10-0 run that got the Cyclones back within 42-39 on Johnson's layup off a baseline inbounds pass.
Each one picked up his fourth foul within a 47-second span, with Hubalek following Johnson to the bench with 9:23 to play, but the Cyclones kept coming.
Jessan Gray, who replaced Hubalek, had a two-handed dunk to keep the rally going, and Corey McIntosh put Iowa State ahead 56-55 on a driving layup with 4:38 remaining -- setting off cheers from two noisy sections filled with Cyclones fans behind the Iowa State bench.
It was the only time Iowa State would lead the entire game.
"We never gave up. We never thought that we was out of the game, Taylor said. "I was telling the guys that it is not over until the horn sounds."
After taking the lead, Iowa State missed its next three shots before Godbold's steal from Taylor.
"It was the story of our season, this game that we played today," Taylor said. "There was a lot of ups and downs in the first half but we put ourself in position to win.
"We had a couple of good looks at the basket. It just didn't fall," he said.
Crocker, starting in place of the ill Michael Neal, scored the first five points of the game as Oklahoma opened an early 9-2 lead. Iowa State spent much of the rest of the half trying to close the gap, getting within one point twice before the Sooners pulled away with a 9-0 run made up entirely of free throws to go up 27-17.
Bobby Maze's 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer pushed the edge to 35-23, and his basket after the break pushed the lead to its highest point at 14.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Carter said. "We just had to clamp down on defense. It was just how well we were going to respond, and we responded well."