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How the Game Was Won: Texas Tech

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The Cyclones won this game with grit.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off two head scratching losses to Baylor and Kansas State, the Cyclones looked like they were in trouble. To start off a stretch of three ranked road games out of four, Iowa State traveled to Lubbock. Admittedly, I didn’t expect Iowa State to have a chance against the #8 team in the country. Good thing I was wrong, because Iowa State looked nothing like the team we had seen a few days before.

Iowa State left Lubbock with a 68-64 win. Obviously, you can’t go on the road against a top ten team and win without doing a lot right. I’ll look over some of the things that sparked an upset(?). Cyhusker, Matthias Schwartzkopf, and I discussed a few of these on the Wide Right and Natty Litecast, tune in and have some fun!

Effort

It’s no secret that Iowa State was getting out-hustled in their losses to Baylor and Kansas State. They weren’t getting on the ground for loose balls, they were missing box outs, there were some lazy close-outs, etc. Those are the types of plays that are the difference between winning and losing. Iowa State did all of these things on Wednesday night.

There aren’t really any stats to back up the claim of getting on the ground and getting dirty, you just have to watch the game. This was a trend that started at the very beginning of the game and it showed. Iowa State was consistently extending a possession or ending a possession for the Red Raiders. When you are playing a team that is as slow at Tech (218th in adjusted tempo on KenPom,) every single possession matters. Keeping plays alive is so huge in a game like that.

Iowa State even won the rebounding battle, 39-37. Something that Iowa State hadn’t done yet in Big 12 play. Rebounding and boxing out is almost entirely hustle.

This also leaked into Tech’s offensive performance. One thing that Iowa State struggled with in the last two games was close-outs. They were much better at getting in the face of shooters and altering shots. It showed because Texas Tech shot just 33.8% from three.

Overall, this was something that impressed me throughout the game. It was obvious that the guys were lackadaisical in Waco and against K-State, so hopefully they learned from that. 100% every game is something Steve Prohm preaches consistently, so to see them buy in was very cool.

Ball Movement

At points this season, Iowa State get the case of standing around and waiting for someone to do something. This almost always results in a terrible pull long two point jumper, which is uhhh bad. On Wednesday night, Iowa State was a lot better at moving without the ball. They were screening off ball and doing back door cuts. You know, actual offense.

Playing fluid on offense is very important in every game, but even more-so when playing against the #1 defensive team in the country. Making shots is extremely important, but most of the time it’s easier when it comes from open looks. When in the half court, Iowa State is going to score more when the driving inside the paint and kicking it out to the perimeter. Once the ball gets outside, there are several options; shoot, drive, or extra pass.

This play was one of the best I saw all night. Wigginton drove inside and sucked the defense in, Shayok made the extra pass to THT, despite having a pretty good look from three. THT had three options, pass to the perimeter to an open guy, pass inside to Michael Jacobsen (who played his best game of the Big 12 season) with good position, or keep the ball himself. I’m glad he made the right decision by not keeping it, because it resulted in a bucket.

That’s the half-court offense, something Iowa State has generally struggled with all year. One thing that ISU has been great at this year is running in transition. They were also good in the fast break on Wednesday.

This play was probably my favorite of all. Lindell made a great lead pass to Haliburton. Shayok shot to the corner to open up the floor which allowed Conditt to go to the basket with little contest. Tyrese made a beautiful pass and Conditt finished it with a nice flush. They used ball movement and spacing to create an easy bucket. This is Iowa State’s offense at it’s best and I surely hope we can see more of this for the rest of the season.

Nick Weiler-Babb

I will be the first to admit that I am one of NWB’s biggest critics. I respect his game and his effort, but I have never thought he was capable of leading this team at point guard. He proved me wrong on Wednesday.

His stat line wasn’t incredible; 12 points on 5-8 shooting while tacking on 5 rebounds, one block, and one steal. But his impact on the game was the most valuable of anyone. His effort on the defensive end was tremendous. But most importantly, he was clutch. Texas Tech tied the game at 61 all on a 7-0 run with 1:52 left. At this point, I thought the game was over.

However, Nick Weiler-Babb did not. He hit the shot of the game at a point where the offense was just standing around. Even though he shoots the worst shot in basketball a lot, he makes a lot of them and this one was the game winner for ISU.

The Bad

It’s kind of hard to complain about a top ten road win but Iowa State was far from perfect.

Free Throws were still bad. They made 13-19, which is better than against K-State and Marial Shayok did ice the game. It didn’t lose them the game, but it still wasn’t good.

Three Point shooting was very, very bad. They made 5-22 and the majority of those misses were WIDE open. None of these guys are Tyrus McGee or Matt Thomas, but if they can start making open shots, the sky is the limit.

Lindell Wigginton still struggled from the floor (3-12,) even though he hit some big shots. He’s getting a lot better and he will continue to get situated into the lineup.

The good clearly outweighed the bad because they won. I love how they won this game with a gritty style. If they can be this gritty every game, I think they will win a lot of games in the Big 12.