Cyclones head to Big 12 Tournament, take on familiar foe


Photo: Zhenru Zhang/Iowa State D

Forward Calvin Godfrey attempts a shot during the game against Missouri on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Missouri defeated the Cyclones 76-70.

Chris Cuellar

It’s win or clean-out-your-locker time for the ISU basketball team.

Iowa State (16-15, 3-13 Big 12) will be hoping for a repeat of its senior-night upset of Colorado as the two teams face each other Wednesday in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, Mo.

With the Buffaloes (19-12, 8-8) playing to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament and the Cyclones attempting to avoid the end of their season, the Sprint Center should be lively for the 2:30 p.m. tipoff.

“This is very big, just having a chance to maybe win the conference tournament, maybe get in the NIT — obviously we’d like to win the whole thing,” said ISU senior forward Jamie Vanderbeken. “I think we got a pretty good draw too. If we hit shots, we can be very dangerous in the tournament.”

Coach Fred Hoiberg’s team may be able to turn some success at the Big 12 Tournament into a bid for a minor post-season tournament, but for now they want to focus on the Buffaloes.

The Cyclones are familiar with Colorado, having split the season series with the division rival, including a 95-90 win Wednesday in Ames.

“It’s always good to play a team you just played against, and we just won too — we just need to go back and look at some of the things that we did well so we can prepare for them,” said senior guard Diante Garrett. “It’s going to be a real good game.”

Duplicating the exact success Iowa State had Wednesday could prove difficult, as the Cyclones used energy and motivation from senior night to fuel 70 percent shooting in the second half and a 23-point, 11-rebound effort from freshman Calvin Godfrey.

“If we shoot it like we can, and everybody comes in with the mentality that we need to win every game, we’ll be all right,” Vanderbeken said. “This is the same defense, it’s a big key for us to get back in transition.”

Godfrey was out from the first meeting of the two teams due to a suspension, but came back and made his presence felt last week, dominating the paint against the speedy Buffaloes.

“I can do it again — if it can be done once, it can be done again,” Godfrey said. “It’s the Big 12, everybody’s strong, but it’s all about how you get there and what you’re willing to do to get there. I feel like every rebound is mine when I’m on the court.”

Despite the overwhelming effort Iowa State gave in its second meeting with Colorado, the team’s struggles and its opponent’s game plan in the first meeting can’t be overlooked. In Boulder, Colo., on Feb. 1, the Buffaloes rolled up an easy 95-69 win with strong shooting and running down a ragged Cyclone team.

“We’ve got to get back on transition defense, because they live off that,” Garrett said. “We just can’t let those guys get going and get easy baskets. We need to be there every time.”

CU guard Alec Burks was named to the All-Big 12 First Team this week, and with 43 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones this season, it’s easy to see why. Iowa State will have to be on the look out for the agile sophomore.

“His mid-range game is on point, he’s 6-foot-6 inches, so he can shoot over most guards, he’s pretty fast for any forward to guard,” Garrett said. “He’s pretty good.”

Iowa State’s seniors have no intention of having their season wrapped up by Wednesday evening and are looking forward to playing the role of spoiler this week.

“It all starts with the seniors and the leaders of the team, just coming out and be intense and talk to the freshmen,” Garrett said. “If we come out with the same intensity we had on senior night, I think we can get some wins.”

The winner of the Colorado-Iowa State game will take on Kansas State at 2 p.m. Thursday. Each of Iowa State’s first two games would be televised on the Big 12 Network.

Iowa State hasn’t won a Big 12 Tournament game since 2005.