A near defensive collapse almost cost Iowa State against TCU

Iowa State sophomore guard Rasir Bolton defends TCU’s Desmond Bane on Feb. 25 in a 65-59 win for the Cyclones.

Matt Belinson

Defense was the hot topic of discussion for Iowa State in the days leading up to its rematch with the TCU Horned Frogs and for good reason.

The Cyclones had given up over 86 points in back-to-back games and both players and coaches were searching for an answer as to why the Cyclones continued to see nagging defensive issues show up in late February.

But for the first half against the Horned Frogs, all seemed well for Iowa State on defense. TCU shot 33 percent from the field and 38 percent from three, both of which were considerable drops from TCU’s 51.72 percent clip from the field and 50 percent from three in the first half against the Cyclones on Jan. 4 in the Big 12 opener.

Iowa State walked into halftime up 41-25, thanks to more rebounds, more assists and more free throws than the Horned Frogs in the first half, while holding all TCU scorers at six or fewer points.

Smooth sailing from then on right? 

The second half defense would have other ideas.

Solomon Young, who finished with a team leading 20 points on 8-11 shooting, said the Cyclones came out of the half slow and had to find a way to win at the end.

“We came out slow but rallied together and came back,” Young said. “Defense pretty much won the end of that game.”

The defense wouldn’t reemerge until after TCU had found its way back with aggressive offense and stingy defense to offer a chance for a comeback effort.

Iowa State’s narrow 65-59 victory looks as close as it was down the stretch for the Cyclones, with TCU rallying from down as much as 18 points and even taking a brief 55-53 lead with just over five minutes remaining.

The difference in Iowa State’s absent defensive presence for Head Coach Steve Prohm was due to TCU’s awareness on ball screens and finishing tough shots from three and around the basket.

Prohm said TCU came out of the second half making a clear point of keeping Young up front and away from the basket. 

“Obviously the first half was really good for us, TCU second half gave us some problems on the offensive end for us in execution and not being able to get it in the post and we put ourselves in a position we were tied going down to the last media timeout,” Prohm said.

Iowa State and TCU got back to scoring right away, with both teams trading two baskets to start the half off, but after Iowa State took a 45-33 with 17:56 left, TCU decided it was time for a scoring run to make the game interesting the final 17 minutes.

In the first six minutes of the second half, TCU went on a 15-6 run and started to find offensive rebounds (six), more than both teams combined for in the first half (five).

TCU’s Edric Dennis missed a 3-point basket, a miss that would begin the problem that Iowa State couldn’t seem to get around for much of the second half: offensive rebounding.

Dennis’s miss found its way into Desmond Bane’s hands, with the senior guard grabbing the offensive rebound and putting up a shot attempt. Miss. Bane offensive rebound. Missed jumper by Bane. Bane offensive rebound. After a trio of rebounds, Bane would end up scoring his third shot attempt in a five-second span. 

“I think the biggest thing when you look at the tape is offensive rebounds, they were 33 percent from the field in the first half, three offensive rebounds,” Prohm said. “They had nine offensive rebounds in the second half.”

Eventually, TCU took a 55-53 lead with 5:18 left after two free throws by PJ Fuller.

Iowa State would respond and the back-and-forth tie would reach 57-57 with under two minutes to play. A basket interference call on Young with 1:44 left wouldn’t prove to be as detrimental as it might seem, as Young scored on the very next offensive possession to put Iowa State up 59-57.

Bane would tie the game at 59-59 with 55 seconds left but Iowa State regained its spark on defense with stops from Caleb Grill and a defensive rebound by Young when it mattered most.

Grill came up with a steal and block in the final moments to set up TCU having to foul. Grill would have his way with Dennis down the final minute of play, pick-pocketing the junior for a steal and then would end up blocking Dennis’s shot with 13 seconds left.

Tre Jackson, who finished with a career-high 18 points on 4-7 shooting from three, earned one-and-one free throws after Young grabbed a defensive rebound the possession after Grill’s steal. Young would grab the rebound and pivot around making sure no one was close to fouling and passed it off to Jackson who was fouled moments later.

Jackson said it was Grill’s grit on defense that made his free throws much easier to make.

“At the end when Caleb Grill got those two stops at the end, that was big there,” Jackson said. “That steal and the block that was great, that turned everybody up, that helped me to make those free throws at the end.”

The freshman would end up making both to give Iowa State a 63-59 lead with 19 seconds left.

Jackson said Iowa State allowed too many open looks from three in the second half and gave up drives to the basket too often. Rebounding was also a major factor in Jackson’s eyes, with TCU finding easy ways to score too often. 

After George Conditt challenged his teammates Monday afternoon in the midst of the losing skid, calling out the team’s lack of effort and toughness on defense, Jackson said Iowa State rose to the challenge and stuck together to hang on for the win.

“I am just glad we stuck it out, stayed together and got that ‘W’,” Jackson said.