The Iowa State men’s basketball team had a visit from an ‘old friend’ last night in Hilton Coliseum..but we’ll get to that in a second.
After dropping a tough loss to No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence 62-60 Saturday afternoon, the Cyclones were fueled with more motivation than they already had for this matchup. No. 12 Iowa State hosted No. 7 Texas, Tuesday night and came out victorious 78-67. Senior guard Jaren Holmes led all scorers with 21 points.
The Cyclones are now 5-1 in Big 12 play, and are knocking on the door of being a top 10 team in the AP Poll.
You can’t write a better storyline than this. This was the first time Iowa State had seen former point guard Tyrese Hunter since his departure from the program in April 2022. Hunter was apart of last year’s Sweet Sixteen run and the revival of the basketball program from the infamous 2-22 season.
Iowa State felt backstabbed when Hunter decided to transfer to conference rival Texas, so this game has been circled on calendars by the players and fans for a minute.
Here are my three thoughts:
Jaren Holmes. Caleb Grill. Gabe Kalscheur.
The three-headed senior guard trio of Jaren Holmes, Caleb Grill and Gabe Kalscheur were on an offensive tear last night. As stated earlier, Holmes had 21 points, Grill poured in 17 and Kalscheur dropped 16.
Holmes, Grill and Kalscheur had their fair share of big shots and were key to the Cyclones first half comeback and sealing the win down the stretch in the second half.
Iowa State trailed early by as much as 11 points at the 7:06 mark due to some Texas second-chance points and a quick offensive run from Texas, ironically led by Tyrese Hunter.
This would not last for long.
Kalscheur, Grill and Holmes all took turns getting to the rim and letting it fly from downtown A three from Kalscheur with 7:00 left in the first half ignited an Iowa State 18-6 run to close out the half. The Cyclones went into the locker room up 36-35. This run started on the defensive end with Iowa State punishing Texas with their full-court and half-court press forcing seven first-half turnovers.
Altogether, the three guards shot 38% from three and weren’t afraid to get to the hole when needed to create for each other or themselves. If they can continue to play off each other like this and score at this high rate, Iowa State’s offense will get very scary.
Osunniyi was the X Factor
Senior Forward Osun Osunniyi was barbeque chicken in and around the paint Tuesday night. Osunniyi poured in 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds while shooting 83% around the rim.
Last night we saw the true impact Osunniyi can have on this ball club when he doesn’t get into early foul trouble. When he’s not in foul trouble, he’s the ultimate rim protector and an interior force offensively and that was on display Tuesday night.
Osunniyi was so smooth, poised and controlled around the basket whether he was backing down guys or showing off his floater game. Aside from a poor free throw shooting night, Osunniyi was huge for the Cyclones and is heading in the right direction.
Rebounding & TO ratio
It’s rare to see a team win without winning the rebound/turnover battle. It’s not always the sexiest plays however it excites Hilton and almost always results in wins. Yesterday, Iowa State turned up the heat defensively and won the turnover battle 13-7. The Cyclones also outrebounded the Longhorns 32-25.
This is the difference maker. Every big play from the Cyclones came off a steal, a rebound or a tip-out to restart the shot clock. These were also the big plays that Iowa State wasn’t making at the start of the game and it resulted in the 11-point lead by Texas.
The Cyclones on-ball and off-ball defense was outstanding and Iowa State managed to keep former Cyclone, Tyrese Hunter scoreless in the second half after scoring 10 in the first. This was really impressive because it shows this group has the ability to shut someone down when they have the mindset to do so.
Hilton also gave a fair share of help with giving Hunter a tough time in Ames with the constant booing and heckling anytime Hunter touched the ball. “Surreal. It almost felt like an NBA playoff game. That intense” stated Holmes in media when asked about the energy in Hilton.
Nonetheless, the Cyclones need to come out with that hungry defensive mindset every game no matter who they play. Treat every game like Tyrese Hunter is on the floor.
It goes without saying, that Texas is gonna be more than ready to get a second chance at the Cyclones when Iowa State travels down to Austin, on February 21st. They need to play with the same passion that they did Tuesday night from tip-off to have the season sweep on the Longhorns and every night they take the floor.
Iowa State next travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday, January 21st at 1:00 (ESPN+). There’s no doubt in my mind that if Iowa State wins in Stillwater, they will be a top-10 team in the AP Poll come Monday.