ISU men’s hoops gets to 20 wins for the first time since 2001


Sophomore forward Royce White stands at the line, preparing to shoot a free throw during the Iowa State men’s basketball game against Texas Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones overcame an early lead by the Red Raiders to win their 20th by a score of 72-54.

Jeremiah Davis

It wasn’t the way it necessarily wanted to get it, but the ISU men’s basketball team came away with a win Wednesday night against Texas Tech.

The Cyclones (20-8, 10-5 Big 12) weathered a sluggish first half that saw the Red Raiders (8-19, 1-14) lead 32-28 before pulling away to the 72-54 victory.

“[Texas Tech was] just too comfortable,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “They came down and had open looks. They were getting what they wanted in the post, and they were getting offensive rebounds, three things that just can’t happen, especially on your home court.”

Nonetheless, Iowa State hit the 20-win mark overall and 10-win mark in conference for the first time since 2001, when the Cyclones won the Big 12 regular season championship en route to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Melvin Ejim said after the game his coach was none-too-pleased with the first-half performance from the Cyclones and let them know it. The Red Raiders, who shot 56.5 percent overall and 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half, were held to 34.8 percent overall and 16.7 percent from deep in the second stanza.

Ejim said he and his teammates got the message loud and clear.

“He let us have it, and we fixed it,” Ejim said. “We paid attention to what he was saying, and we came out strong and finished strong.”

The Cyclones were led by forward Royce White, who returned to his usual offensive form. The sophomore finished two assists shy of his second career triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Despite the stat-line, White was unhappy with his performance and credited his teammates for his success.

“I don’t think I was on an offensive track at all,” White said. “The way I shot free throws was inexcusable. I was able to get some easy baskets that my teammates created for me, some easy dunks. I’m still looking to get back on track.”

His coach, though, disagreed completely with White. Hoiberg said he was very happy with White’s offensive performance, especially on the glass late in the game.

“I thought he was very effective, especially those last eight minutes when he was controlling the glass,” Hoiberg said. “He was getting every rebound. He was getting out, pushing the ball. He’s such a key in our transition game with the way he finds guys. … I thought Royce played a terrific game.”

What White was proud of, though, was getting that 20th win, if only for his coach.

“I’m just really happy for coach, his first 20-win season in his second year,” White said. “I’m just happy I could be a part of that.”

When asked about what the win-mark meant to him, Hoiberg deflected the praise and instead went back to hammering home the message he has sent all year: Take each game one at a time, and stay focused on that.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, there’s a lot of work in front of us,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got three very difficult games to close out the conference, so that’s my focus right now.”

Looking forward, with only three regular season games remaining, the NCAA Tournament looms large for Iowa State. The 20-win plateau has been considered the bench-mark by many, but the Cyclones are not going to be satisfied where they are now.

White said apart from being happy for his coach, the 20th win was just like any other and the mark is not the only thing this team is shooting for.

“[The win] is a piece [of the team’s goals],” White said. “I think that we can’t lose focus of what we want to do. We’re still not there yet, as far as the goals we set. … Our goals are much bigger than 20 wins, and to reach those goals is going to be real tough.”