Ames, Iowa - For the third year in a row, the home team faced little adversity in the Cy-Hawk matchup. On Thursday night, the Iowa State Cyclones (7-2) dominated the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-4, 0-1 in the Big Ten) 90-65 continuing to prove home court matters when facing their in-state rival recording their largest margin of victory against the Hawkeyes in school-history. After an all-around disappointing showing in Florida, it was critical for the Cyclones to showcase that they could play a full 40 minutes against a power-5 conference team. In front of a deafening Hilton crowd, Iowa State displayed what this team can do when they never take their foot off the gas.
“If you look at the full 40 minutes, the focus, the effort, the intent, and execution of the gameplan our guys did the job and stayed locked in,” coach TJ Otzelberger said.
Here is how the Cyclones sent a message to the rest of the country with their explosive seventh victory.
First-half defense and front-court supremacy
Otzelberger’s point of emphasis in the first half was clear, give it to Tre King and let him work. Going into the matchup the Hawkeyes on paper had the stronger backcourt with Ben Krikke and freshman standout Owen Freeman combining for 30 points a game. Iowa State’s backcourt was patient and found ways to slip the ball into the 6’7” King consistently and accurately.
“We felt like there were some opportunities to get Rob [Jones] and Tre going right away and our guards did a great job of making the reads,” Otzelberger said. “[Jones and King] did an exceptional job of finishing and going right at the rim and that set the tone for the whole game.”
Iowa splashed a three in the first minutes of the game taking a 3-2 lead, but that would be the last time the black and gold saw their names up front. King took over the paint pushing around the bigger Krikke and fighting through contact to score the Cyclones’ first 5-points and would not slow down making 6 of his 7 shots in the first half. King ended the game with 17 points on 8-11 shooting.
For the first time this season, the Cyclones’ two bigs played collectively. Robert Jones was perfect…no seriously. The senior finished his night a perfect 6-6 from the field ending with 18 points. Jones’ efficiency and growth will cause headaches for opposing teams to come.
“It’s delightful. It does not get better than beating your rival to end your career,” Jones said.
While Jones and King highlighted the stat sheets, one play stands out that you will not be able to find on any box score. Early in the first five minutes, the Cyclones and Hawkeyes battled for a loose ball, and it was the extra hustle plays by Milan Momcilovic and Keshon Gilbert who both sent their bodies flying to the floor and got the ball to Tamin Lipsey. This play set the tone for the defensive clinic the Cyclones were about to present.
The Hawkeyes, who rank 10th in the nation in points per game (87.9) could not escape the constricting Cyclone defense. Iowa turned the ball over 19 times with 12 just in the first half. Even in the sample size moments Iowa crossed half court, they struggled to get into any rhythm falling into two near three-minute scoring droughts in the first 20 minutes.
“We did not give enough movement whether that be ball movement or people movement,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said. “We need more activity to challenge a defense in a better way.”
Iowa State’s relentless defense earned them a 47-29 halftime lead.
Gilbert shows off in the second half
After finishing the first half with just 7 points, Gilbert took off in the second half tying his career-high with 25 points. Iowa’s guards could not keep Gilbert out of the paint. The guard weaved and bent his body in abstract ways slashing through the defense shooting 50% from the field and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc.
“I ain’t gonna lie right now I don’t really know what to say, I am just so happy right now,” Gilbert said while flashing a smile towards his teammates Jones and King.
The balanced attack from Gilbert kept Iowa on its heels for the final 20 minutes. The transfer guard from UNLV played with an unselfishness that wreaked havoc on the Hawkeyes. Gilbert dished out 6-assists tying the team-high with fellow guard Tamin Lipsey. This is the style of aggressiveness that coaches and fans expect to see moving forward.
“That is the standard that we are looking for night in and night out,” Otzelberger said. “To me, he is taking a step mentally in terms of staying locked in and staying focused…but to me, it’s that focus and concentration and that effort and the intelligence he is bringing to everything, and he is doing it for 40 minutes.”
Next up, Iowa State will face Prairie View A&M on Sunday in Ames at noon.