Cyclones grind their way to a win, maintain perfect record

Tyrese Hunter moves with the basketball against Jackson State on Dec. 12.

James Powell

AMES- Sometimes, the final score can be deceiving. Sunday wasn’t one of those days.

No. 17 Iowa State’s game against the Jackson State Tigers was the program’s lowest scoring output in Hilton Coliseum history, and it looked the part in every regard.

Coming off an emotional, fiery performance against Iowa on Thursday in front of a sell-out crowd, the Cyclones looked sluggish on offense from the jump. Pair that with a quieter Hilton crowd and a Sunday afternoon tip-off; it’s no wonder the final score was 47-37.

T.J. Otzelberger said his team continued to have intense, competitive practices within the marathon of games the first month and a half. That included practices Friday and Saturday after the Cy-Hawk game Thursday and may have resulted in a bit of an off-day, at least from an energy standpoint.

“It’s been a lot of games coming at us and we practice hard every day,” Otzelberger said. “I’ll give our guys credit, they fought through and had two great days of practice but I didn’t think we had the same hop in our step that we normally do, and we were a bit tired.”

Still, it’s hard to be bullish on the Cyclones’ offensive output. They shot just 34 percent from the field and 60 percent from the free-throw line. They did start the game by going on a 19-0 run to go up 19-4 that included 10 minutes without a Jackson State bucket.

But from there, the offense was hit-or-miss with a lot of misses. Particularly, those came in the early stages of the second half.

The second-half score was 9-9 after Jackson State’s Jonas James made a three-point basket with 8:40 remaining in the game. In total, it was a 19-17 advantage in the second half for the Cyclones.

“[Jackson State] gets out and denies everything on the wings, so it was tougher to get some entries we normally get,” Otzelberger said about the second-half offense. “I thought we could’ve been a little more physical and a little more intentional and demanding… we talked about it and we worked on it.”

It was tough sledding for both offenses throughout the game, but the 37 points scored by the Tigers tells the main story, and it speaks to the greater theme that has been present in the Cyclones’ journey to 10-0: suffocating defense.

Iowa State’s offense hasn’t been a well-oiled machine very often so far this season. But what has is their defensive identity and tenacity on the ball. And Otzelberger says that’s what he is most concerned with.

“The effort-based things that we emphasize every day, it may not have looked the same but they still showed up for us,” Otzelberger said. “If we can continue to embrace that every night out I’m confident in how this will go for us, but we can’t deviate. We’re a defense, toughness, hustle rebounding group, and the offense will come.”

Perhaps the brightest spot for Iowa State on that end of the floor was Aljaz Kunc. Kunc was a perfect three-of-three from deep and led all scorers with 12 points.

The transfer from Washington State has come off the bench in every game this season and has had a couple of stretches on offense that helped his team greatly.

Pair that with an always-active presence on the defensive end, and you’ve got a very important role player for Otzelberger and his club.

For Kunc, he thinks it’s all about being productive, no matter when his name is called.

“The game always comes back to you,” Kunc said. “What you give to the game the game gives back. Coming off the bench, it really doesn’t matter for me, it’s just the next guy up.”