Takeaways: Jackson and Grill offset a tough night for Nixon

Iowa State freshman guard Tre Jackson watches a free throw in a 65-59 win over TCU on Feb. 25.

Zane Douglas

Iowa State’s game against TCU came down to the final minute before Iowa State could put the Horned Frogs away in Hilton after letting the Frogs jump back from an 18-point hole.

A 65-59 win against a team that was tied for a spot in the top half of the Big 12 standings could look good without context, but Iowa State gave up a huge halftime lead, and TCU was missing multiple effective players.

Those key aspects aside, the Cyclones avoided a major giveaway of a lead, and in the process, they learned some things about the team with only three games left before conference tournament season.

Mask off, shooting on

Freshman guard Tre Jackson didn’t play shy Tuesday night as he set a career high in points with 18, backed up by four first-half 3 pointers on six attempts in his first game with a face mask that was used after a nose injury he suffered against Oklahoma State on Jan. 21.

Jackson did his best Steph Curry impression in the first 20 minutes by sinking 3 after 3, directly following a stretch where the Cyclones were hard-pressed to get it inside.

The freshman ended his run with two 3s in a row — the latter coming on a deep-contested look from the left wing.

The Horned Frogs played up on him in the second half, which didn’t allow much space for shots, but Jackson still found a couple opportunities to drive in and release a floater that rattled in on both occasions.

“[Jackson’s] young; he’s really really young,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “You’ve been thrown in the fire with not a lot of older guys to help kinda show the way, and so [Tuesday] was really really good for him.”

Grill covers

It wasn’t all that pretty, but freshman guard Caleb Grill had a positive impact for the Cyclones on Tuesday with his biggest plays of the game coming on the defensive end.

After a steal in the waning minutes by TCU, Grill stepped up and snatched the ball right back, giving the Cyclones an extra possession. In the decisive final minute, Grill would nab the ball again and follow that up with a key block, giving the Cyclones the defensive stops they needed late.

“The thing he’s done all year is really competed,” Prohm said. “He hadn’t made shots, but right now, I’m not worried about all that. He’s a guy that you know what you’re gonna get from a competitive standpoint.”

Grill was playing with a wrap around his right wrist, which could’ve contributed to his 0-3 shooting day, but his defense still shone through as he played 24 minutes with a plus/minus of +6, the final minute being the difference.

Grill has had a tough time throughout the season earning enough minutes with inconsistent shooting, but the game against the Horned Frogs could buy him some more time on the floor in the coming weeks.

Nixon struggles

Part of the reason that Grill played so much was the lack of effectiveness from redshirt senior guard Prentiss Nixon.

Since coming back in the starting lineup, Nixon’s abysmal percentages in conference have improved, but his offensive inefficiency showed again Tuesday.

Nixon shot 1-10 from the floor and missed the rim entirely on multiple occasions. He also racked up four turnovers and was hit with four personal fouls. Nixon was taken out down the stretch in favor of Grill while the rest of the starting lineup played.

The combination of inefficient shooting and carelessness with the ball resulted in one of the senior’s worst games of his career.