MBB: Brackins makes up for three-point struggles

Matt Gubbels

With the ISU men’s basketball team struggling from three-point range Wednesday against Northern Iowa, the Cyclones needed some big help from its big men.

The Cyclones’ leading scorer coming into the game, sophomore post player Craig Brackins, came up with one of the best games of his young career with a season-high 32 points and career-high in rebounds with 16 in a thrilling 71-66 overtime victory for Iowa State. Both numbers were McLeod Center records.

“They were locking off on the shooters a lot so that helped inside,” Brackins said. “I was shocked that they didn’t double down that much.”

The Cyclones were only 2-14 from beyond the arc in the game, including 2-12 in regulation, when Brackins scored 31 of his 32 points. Despite not scoring as much in the extra period, Brackins shut out Adam Koch, who had 18 points for the Panthers in regulation.

“He is one of the best players in the Big 12 and we knew that coming into the game,” Panther coach Ben Jacobsen said. “We mixed it up a little bit in the second half but he is a great player and I give him credit for stepping up and making plays for his team.”

Coach Greg McDermott said it was big for his team to get a win when they one of their biggest strengths was just a little off.

“(Brackins) was rolling and we rode our horse,” McDermott said. “We took advantage of that and didn’t force many three-point shots.”

Brackins previous season-high had been the 21 he scored against Loyola Marymount but was calling for the ball all night, having career-highs in both shot attempts and makes with his 12-23 from the field. Brackins also went to the free-throw line mulitiple times, hitting 8-11 from the charity stripe.

“He really took advantage of his opportunities tonight,” Koch said. “When we did let him catch on the block, he maybe didn’t do quite as much but he is a great scorer.”

One of the most impressive parts about Brackins’s big night may have been who he was dealing with in the paint. For much of the night Brackins was guarding as well as being guarded by UNI’s 7-1 center Jordan Eglseder.

“Jordan’s obviously big but Craig is pretty quick,” McDermott said. “They are kind of a tough matchup for each other.”

In the first half, Brackins had 13 points and eight rebounds but he turned game up a level when the Cyclones needed it the most. Brackins scored six of Iowa State’s first eight points of the half and then had six more during a 12-0 Cyclone run that took Iowa State from down five to up seven. During that stretch, Brackins dealt with both Eglseder’s power and Koch’s athleticism.

“Eglseder and Koch were both good players,” Brackins said. “I just had to figure what moves were best for whoever was guarding me.”

McDermott said tonight’s game showed what Brackins can do when he is at his best

“Some of those plays he made out there tonight, I would like to tell you I taught him that,” McDermott said. “That just comes naturally and tonight he was the best player on the floor.

Brackins previous career high in points was 33 at Baylor last season and his previous career high in rebounds was 12 against Texas A&M last season. Brackins struggled mightily against the Panthers last season with only two points.

Brackins only had one point in the overtime period but it was a big one as it gave Iowa State a three-point lead and forced UNI out of their comfort zone in the last 30 seconds, getting Iowa State got its first road win in just over a year.

“It feels good to win on the road,” Brackins said. “It has been a while.”